Ladell Betts had returned 74 kickoffs in his NFL career before finally breaking through with a touchdown return. His 94-yard kickoff return in Sunday's game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers provided a spark for the Redskins, but it wasn't enough as Tampa won 36-35.
Nevertheless, Betts was both gratified and relieved to end his scoreless drought on kick returns.
"I've been doing for a lot of years and I've come close to breaking them so many times," Betts said. "It was definitely a good feeling. I knew at the time we needed a play to get back in the game."
Betts came out of Sunday's game with a ligament strain in his knee, however. His status is questionable, team officials said.
Betts' long-awaited kick return for a touchdown in Sunday's game was not without controversy, however.
When Betts took the ball at his own 6-yard line, he ran at full speed toward a wave of tacklers, bouncing off one and shifting to the left. He found a seam toward the sideline and was off to the races, stunning the Raymond James Stadium crowd. He was almost tackled at the Bucs' 10-yard line, but he stayed on his feet as he crossed into the end zone.
However, replay showed that Betts was close to stepping out of bounds at the Redskins' 35-yard line and Tampa Bay challenged the play.
"I knew I was close to the edge, but I had no clue I was that close," Betts said. "It was somewhat surprising to look up at the big screen [at Raymond James Stadium] and see how close it really was."
A closer look at the return indicated that Betts was able to tiptoe along the line, without dropping his heel on the white chalk of the sideline. The touchdown was upheld and the score pulled the Redskins to within 14-10 in the second quarter.
Said head coach Joe Gibbs: "At one point, his cleats were down and heel was up. It never really hit the line."
"I knew it could go either way," Betts added. "It looked to me kind of what the officials saw. I was running with my toes and my toes were in bounds. My heels kept coming across the line, but they never did step down.
"At the time, I thought there was a chance they would overturn it. You never know what TV angle they're looking at. To me, it looked like it could go either way."
It was the second consecutive game that Betts has come up with a key kickoff return. In the Week 9 game against Philadelphia, Betts had a 40-yard kickoff return that helped set up Washington's game-winning touchdown in the 17-10 win at FedExField.
For the season, Betts has returned 23 kickoffs for a 25.7-yard average. The 94-yard kickoff return elevated his return average to seventh-best in the NFL and third-best in the NFC behind the Giants' Willie Ponder and the Vikings' Koren Robinson.