Back in the preseason, after the Redskins had beaten Pittsburgh 17-10 at FedExField, hopes were high that Washington's ground game would have a spectacular year.
Given the presence of Clinton Portis and given the way the way the Redskins' offensive line played in that Aug. 26 game versus one of the league's toughest defenses, the Steelers, smash-mouth football figured to be ahead for Washington.
On Week 10, despite the tough 36-35 loss at Tampa Bay, there were signs that the Redskins can return to a dominant rushing attack. Against the Bucs, and particularly in the early going, Portis was picking up huge chunks of yards. He finished with 23 carries, 144 yards and an eight-yard TD.
On how his team ran the ball against Tampa Bay, head coach Joe Gibbs said: "For us to rush the football like that against what I consider one of the best defenses in the league is a heck of an effort. We had a very physical approach to it."
With that, it's time to re-visit a story line that was in vogue earlier in the season: the possibility that Portis may catch one of the team records set by Stephen Davis.
When he played for the Redskins between 1996 and 2002, Davis established himself as one of the top running backs in team history. By the time he departed for Carolina, Davis had set one of the key records in Redskins history.
He rushed for 1,432 yards in 2001, breaking the mark set by none other than Stephen Davis. The Auburn product totaled 1,405 in 1999, the Redskins' most recent playoff season. Terry Allen is No. 3 on the team's all-time, single-season rushing list. Allen totaled 1,353 in 1996.
Davis's 2001 team standard of 1,432 rushing yards may be in jeopardy again. Like all great records, it stands to fall one day. That day could come this season, if Portis and the offensive line finish with an exceptionally strong 2005 campaign.
Through nine games, Portis had totaled 171 carries, 764 yards and five TDs. He had averaged 4.5 yards per carry. So, with seven games left in 2005, Portis needs 669 yards to break the single-single rushing mark in Redskins history.
When the Redskins brought in Portis in the 2004 trade for Champ Bailey, they added a player who is a threat to any number of Redskins' records. Says Portis, the former Miami Hurricane: "When you get your opportunity, you have to make the best of it."
In his first three seasons in the league, two in Denver and one with the Redskins, Portis averaged 1,471 yards per season. He finished his first season in Washington with 1,315 yards on 343 carries. Portis missed last year's season finale versus Minnesota because of a chest-area injury. In the least productive season of his NFL career, Portis still came within 117 yards of adding his name to the record book of his new team.
The 5-10, 212-pound Portis is playing at a heavier weight this year and those added pounds may help him down the stretch. The final three weeks of the 2005 regular season are expected to bring tough challenges within the NFC East, games that may be played in challenging weather and therefore may require the Redskins to keep the ball on the ground with more regularity.
Washington hosts Dallas on Week 15 and the Giants on Week 16 before closing out the regular season at Philadelphia on New Year's Day.
Regarding the current mood in the Redskins' locker room, Randy Thomas, one of the key blockers for Portis, says: "We're just trying to get it into our minds that, if we play Redskins football, we can beat anyone."
Adds Thomas: "We feel confident about that. If we stay mistake-free, stay low on penalties, and play physical football, we'll put ourselves in good positions."
Meanwhile, Santana Moss also has a decent shot to reach the Redskins' record book. After nine games, Moss had 53 catches, 935 yards and five TDs.
The franchise's single-season mark for most receiving yards was established by Hall of Famer Bobby Mitchell in the 1963 season with a total of 1,436 yards.
With seven regular-season games to go, Moss needs 501 yards to equal Mitchell, named one of the 70 Greatest Redskins in 2002.