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Griffin Led Redskins' Defensive Surge



The last time the Redskins played in such steamy conditions may have been in their 1999 opener. That was the day they led Dallas by 21 points early in the fourth quarter only to see the Cowboys rally and win in overtime 41-35.

There were no such collapses yesterday, another oppressively hot afternoon at FedExField.

This time, the Redskins trailed by nine in the latter stages before soaring back for a 29-24 decision that should give them a great deal of momentum with Arizona coming in on Week 3.

A lot of Washington players gave outstanding efforts yesterday, and defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin was certainly among them.

With the Redskins trailing 24-22 with 3:46 left in the game, the Saints had a 3rd-and-1 at their 37-yard line.

Quarterback Drew Brees handed off to running back Pierre Thomas, who charged into the right side of the line.


Griffin broke through and took down Thomas with some help by safety Chris Horton.

No gain.

The Saints were forced to punt.

One play after the punt, Jason Campbell sidestepped the grasp of defensive end Will Smith and launched a 67-yard strike to Moss for the game-winning score. With that, the Redskins were in front 29-24 with 3:29 to go

"I'll tell you, we kept it together, and it was great team effort at the end," said Griffin, the 6-3, 303-pound nine-year veteran out of Alabama. "That's the name of this game: Stick together. If nothing else, when things were going bad, we kept swinging."

You have to take a look at your defensive front in a positive way any time it can hold Reggie Bush (10 carries, 28 yards) in check the way the Redskins did yesterday.

Bush was spectacular with his 55-yard punt return for a TD. He was solid with his seven catches for 63 yards in the passing game.

On the ground, though, Bush and the Saints never got rolling. Redskin defenders constantly forced Bush to run laterally until a gang of teammates could take over.

Greg Blache's players rarely let Bush into one-on-one matchups during his runs. Griffin was a key in that respect, as he all too often gained initial penetration into Bush's running lanes.

Griffin won enough of his battles with New Orleans interior offensive lineman to really make a difference.

He finished with three tackles and a key nine-year sack of Drew Brees late in the third quarter when the Saints were up 17-15.

"Unfortunately, we let them put some points on the board early but we kept at it, as a team. That's what we can take away from this game," Griffin said.

"They hit us with that big punt return, and a couple of guys started to drop their heads. When that happens, so what? Stick together. You have to think, 'One more play, and we can get right back in this thing.'"

Veterans like Griffin are well aware that with five NFC East road games in the first five weeks, yesterday's home affair was one Washington needed in a desperate way.

Even after the Redskins jumped ahead, Griffin and his defensive teammates knew there was work to be done.

"Oh man, that's when you really have to step up as a defense," he said afterward. "Over the top to Santana, we score. Then it's our job to shut them out. They ran their three plays. We got our offense back on the field. The game's over."

Late in the afternoon, Griffin, enamored of boxing metaphors, repeated one of his favorite phrases, saying, "We just kept swinging at them."

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