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A Win Is a Win For Redskins, Even Without Style Points

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Can't argue the facts of the case. The Redskins defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 16-13 on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

It counts as a win. It makes their record 2-2. It erases the sting of the previous week's stumble in Detroit and (did we mention this already?) it counts as a win. Not only that, it counts as a win.

On the other hand ... Well, start down this road and you'll feel like an octopus.

On the one hand, the Redskins played horribly throughout the first half and spotted the winless Bucs a 10-0 lead. On the other hand, they rallied to score 16 points in the third quarter and kept the Bucs out of the end zone thereafter.

On the one hand, it seemed as if Jason Campbell needed to be removed from the game as nothing less than a public service. On the other hand, he threw a pair of touchdown passes that put the Redskins ahead and, for the most part, pulled himself together in the second half.

Back and forth it goes. Maybe you can argue the facts of the case.

At 2-2, the Redskins have defeated two of the NFL's lamer teams, the winless St. Louis Rams and winless Bucs. They've beaten them both at FedExField by a combined margin of five points.

"We did win," head coach Jim Zorn said, sounding as if he still needed a little convincing. "I'm not satisfied at all spending the first half looking for success, looking for yardage."

Did he mean today or all season? The Redskins remain stuck at three points in the first quarter and they've scored 13 points in the first half, none of those in the last two games. Against any team but a winless one (and that's what the Redskins' schedule features for the foreseeable future), Sunday's effort could hardly have earned a W.

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It got ugly early. After being sacked on the second play from scrimmage, Campbell suffered a sack, a strip and a lost fumble on the next play and the Bucs took over at the Redskins 10.

Josh Johnson, in his first start at quarterback in the NFL, tossed an 8-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Bryant two plays later and the Redskins had just allowed the Bucs' only first-quarter touchdown this season.

Campbell would go on to throw a pair of interceptions in an extraordinarily shaky first half that saw him sacked three times. He went to the locker room with a passer rating of 18.1.

"In the first half," Campbell said, "I didn't even know if I was at Redskins Field."

He said he had never thrown three interceptions (yeah, he fired another in the second half) in one game in his entire career, including, college, high school and pee wees.

So on the one hand, he reached his career low point. But on the other hand, he threw a nice strike to tight end Chris Cooley for a 17-yard touchdown (from the red zone, no less, sing hallelujah) and a gorgeous 59-yard scoring pass to Santana Moss after freezing the safety with a play-fake.

Zorn said he never considered removing Campbell from the game because Campbell stayed focused, didn't panic and never had "these big orbs staring back at me."

On the other hand, the play-calling could well have contributed to some of the mishaps and Zorn acknowledged that, saying "it's really on me."

First 20 first-down plays? Fourteen runs, 13 by Clinton Portis. But both touchdown passes came on first down. So on the one hand, the play-calling seemed predictable. But on the other hand, it twice went against its own tendency and produced touchdowns.

Portis ran for 98 yards in his best game of the season. On the other hand, the Bucs rushed for 129 and as a team averaged 4.3 per carry to the Redskins' 3.6.

This could have come out another way had the Buccaneers' Mike Nugent not missed field goals of 49 and 48 yards, which certainly aren't gimmes. On the other hand, the Redskins kept this game within a field goal's reach when they got an extra point blocked.

The Redskins fared poorly on third down, converting only four of 14. On the other hand, they came into this game as the worst team in the NFL defending on third downs and held the Bucs to two of 13.

One hand and the other hand, balancing and counter-balancing.

Portis, his hands freed of the football, tried to assess this 16-13 thing that came against a team that has lost eight in a row, triumphing for the last time last Nov. 30.

"It's a win, first of all," he said. "But that's what we needed to come out of the first quarter (of the season) 2-2. We could easily have been 4-0 and we could easily have been 0-4."

On the one hand, playing up to their capabilities might have put the Redskins atop the NFC East. On the other hand? Last place and a winless start seemed eminently possible.

At 2-2, the Redskins move on to play yet another team without a victory, the Carolina Panthers (0-3). After that come the Kansas City Chiefs (0-4). The Redskins have not played a team this season with a previous victory, nor one coming off a victory in its last game. Even the New York Giants, the opening-day opponent, had lost their last two games (including the playoffs).

On the one hand, fortune has smiled on the Redskins, with a schedule like soft-serve ice cream. On the other hand, they've taken poor advantage of the NFL dregs and remain in need of serious fine-tuning.

They got big plays from Cooley, who led the team with five receptions, and Santana Moss, whose two catches produced a first down (15 yards) and a touchdown. On the other hand, neither Malcolm Kelly nor Devin Thomas caught a pass and Fred Davis' only reception went for a loss of a yard. So much for the young receivers.

Campbell didn't play well in the first half. But he rebounded. The Redskins didn't score much but they scored enough. The Redskins made mistakes but the other guys made more. On the one hand this, on the other hand that.

Which adds up to 2-2. Factored out over the course of a season, that's 8-8. Which the Redskins were last year.

Which, on the one hand, is not a winning record but, on the other hand, is not a losing record.

Say this for the Redskins. They've got the whole world in their hands.


Larry Weisman covered professional football for USA TODAY for 25 years and now joins the Redskins Broadcast Network and Redskins.com to bring his unique viewpoint and experience to Redskins fans. Go to Redskins.com for the Redskins Blitz column and NFL Blitz on Friday. Larry also appears on The Jim Zorn Show on WRC-TV on Saturday night, on Redskins Nation, airing twice nightly on Comcast SportsNet, and on ESPN 980 AM radio, all in the Washington, D.C. area. Read his blog at redskinsrule.com and follow him on Twitter.com/LarryWeisman.

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