HOUSTON (AP)—Mark Brunell spent all week trying to ignore the criticism. Then he spent all of Sunday quieting it.
One connection after another, Brunell kept finding holes in the Houston Texans’ shaky defense, breaking an NFL record for consecutive completed passes en route to Washington’s first win. Brunell completed his first 22 throws and Clinton Portis scored two touchdowns in his first start of the season as the Redskins beat Houston 31-15.
Washington had scored just one touchdown in its 0-2 start. Against the hapless Houston defense—which entered the game ranked last in the league—the Redskins got things turned around.
“It was a tough week—a lot of things being said,” Brunell said. “So you do your best to block those things out and go forward, keep playing hard, keep working hard.”
The 36-year-old Brunell set the new record when he found Santana Moss on 6-yard pass late in the third quarter. The old record was held by Oakland’s Rich Gannon, who completed 21 straight against Denver on Nov. 11 2002.
Redskins coach Joe Gibbs said they were not aware of the record until Brunell reached 21 completions.
“I said ‘Hey, tell him,”’ Gibbs said. “I’d hate to have him do something like trying to lob one downfield and (assistant coach) Al (Saunders) did a good job getting a safe call there.”
“It’s a nice honor, but the credit should go to the 11 guys who were on the field,” he said. “That’s an offensive team record, really. The receivers were in the right spots, the offensive line did great. We ran the ball like we wanted to.”
The Redskins finished with 495 yards to Houston’s 261.
Brunell entered the game with a completion rate of 57 percent, sparking calls for his benching. He finished 24-of-27 for 261 yards and a touchdown and completed passes to eight different players.
“You can’t do much better than he did today,” 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.”
It was another frustrating loss for the winless Texans and their new coach Gary Kubiak.
“It wasn’t good,” Kubiak said of his defense. “We’ll have to take a hard look at what we’re doing, how we’re doing it and who we’re doing it with. We’ve got a long way to go.”
The game was tied at 7 when Antwaan Randle El caught a 23-yard pass before high stepping his way into the end zone for his first touchdown as a Redskin to give Washington (1-2) the lead early in the second quarter.
Portis capped the first half by leaving a trail of four diving Houston defenders in his wake on a 30-yard touchdown run that gave the Redskins a 21-7 lead. Portis celebrated the score with a dance that was interrupted by hugs from teammates.
Portis had 10 carries for 39 yards off the bench in the opener before sitting out last weekend’s 27-10 loss to Dallas while recovering from a partially dislocated left shoulder. He had 16 carries for 86 yards and two receptions for 78 yards against Houston.
In the third, Portis lost the ball as he was diving for the end zone and it was ruled a fumble. Gibbs challenged the ruling and it was overturned, giving Washington the ball on the 1.
Portis bulled for the touchdown on the next play.
He also set up the Redskins first score when he took a shovel pass 74 yards before being shoved out of bounds by Dunta Robinson at the 13. Two plays later, Ladell Betts scored on a 9-yard run to tie it at 7 in the first quarter. Betts had 16 carries for 124 yards.
The Texans (0-3) led early when David Carr hit tight end Mark Bruener on a 2-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter. They added a score on another 2-yard pass, this time to Owen Daniels to make it 31-13 early in the fourth quarter, and Ron Dayne ran for the 2-point conversion.
In between the two scores, the Texans offense was dreadful. Carr fumbled on a quarterback keeper, fumbled two snaps from backup center Drew Hodgdon and had two passes batted down at the line of scrimmage.
“It’s an embarrassing situation,” Robinson said. “Right now we can’t even keep the games close. We’ve got to get better or we’re going to be the laughingstock of the NFL again.”
Donovan McNabb holds the NFL record for most consecutive passes completed over a two-game span with 24. That was 10 straight on Nov. 28, 2004 against the Giants and 14 in a row on Dec. 5, 2004 against Green Bay. … No. 1 pick Mario Williams had two tackles and an assist, but again failed to get to the quarterback. … Dayne started his first game in almost two years and had 14 carries for 58 yards.