The Washington Redskins finally got their offense going last weekend. They could have a hard time keeping it in gear this week against one of the NFL’s best defenses.
The Redskins look to build on their first win of the season when they host the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday.
The Redskins (1-2) beat winless Houston 31-15 last week, bouncing back from defeats at home against Minnesota and at Dallas. Mark Brunell, who completed just 57.4 percent of his passes in the first two games, went 24-of-27 for 261 yards and a touchdown and connected on an NFL-record 22 consecutive passes.
“You can’t do much better than he did today,” coach Joe Gibbs said. “He threw everything pinpoint and made some very good plays. You could kind of see in Mark that he’s a great competitor.”
Clinton Portis, who missed the Dallas game after carrying the ball just 10 times in Washington’s season opener while recovering from a partially dislocated left shoulder, had 16 carries for 86 yards and a pair of touchdowns in his first start of the season. Ladell Betts rushed 16 times for a career-best 124 yards.
The Redskins, who scored one offensive touchdown in their first two games, outgained the Texans 495-261. In addition to its two regular season losses, Washington had dropped all four of its preseason games.
“We were at a point, where, six straight weeks, you kind of know the way everybody feels. We’re down,” Gibbs said. “With what we’ve been through, I was proud of our guys, the way they fought.”
Still, the victory came against Houston’s defense, which ranks last in the league and is giving up an average of 100 yards more per game than the second-worst defense.
The Jaguars (2-1), on the other hand, rank third in the AFC with 290.9 yards allowed per game and recorded a 9-0 win over defending Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh on Sept. 18. They are coming off a 21-14 loss to Indianapolis on Sunday in which they maintained possession of the ball for nearly 20 more minutes than the Colts while holding them to 63 rushing yards.
Byron Leftwich threw two interceptions and has already thrown four picks this season after being intercepted only five times last year. Josh Scobee missed field goal attempts of 24 and 49 yards, and Jacksonville also gave up an 82-yard punt return for a touchdown.
“It was frustrating,” said Leftwich, whose team held the ball for 24 minutes in the first half. “We have to watch the film to see what really happened, but we have to do a better job. When you have the ball that much time (in one half), you have to come away with more than seven points.”
There were plenty of positives against the Colts, however. Jacksonville outrushed Indianapolis 191-63 and held Peyton Manning to 219 yards and one touchdown on 14-of-31 passing.
The Jaguars are averaging 122.4 rushing yards, fifth-best in the AFC. Fred Taylor has run for 240 yards on 64 carries, and Maurice Jones-Drew had 103 of his 115 rushing yards this season against the Colts.
“You don’t allow one game to deflate your morale so much so that you don’t focus going forward,” tight end Kyle Brady said. “It can snowball if you do that, and that’s the last thing we want.”
Brunell will be making his first start against the Jaguars since a 2004 trade that sent him from Jacksonville to Washington. Brunell played for the Jaguars from 1995-2003, leading the team to the AFC championship game in 1996.
Brunell practiced Friday for the first time this week and plans to start this game despite needing three stitches to repair a nasty cut in his throwing elbow following last week’s victory.
“I feel good. I practiced today, so I expect to play on Sunday,” Brunell said. “The arm improved over the course of the week.”
Washington has won two of the three meetings with Jacksonville, the most recent coming in 2002. Brunell threw for 194 yards on 19-of-29 passing and Taylor rushed for 82 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries, helping the Jags to a 26-7 win.