Campbell continues to make great strides

Jason Cole

IRVING, Texas – For four days after the Washington Redskins' ugly season-opening loss to the Giants, Jason Campbell hit the remote control in search of something else whenever some sports program came on television.

Campbell knew the storm that was raining on the Redskins and there was no sense of trying to weather it for at least awhile.

"I just said, 'You can't change things. You can't worry about things you can't control,' " said Campbell, who passed for just 133 yards against the Giants. "Worry about things you can control. Go out and play. Don't worry about being a mistake-free quarterback, a mechanical quarterback. Go out and do the things that got me to this point."

Three games later, Campbell needn't worry about channel surfing. On Sunday, Campbell methodically led Washington to a surprising 26-24 victory at Dallas, in what was the final game in this storied rivalry at Texas Stadium unless there is a rematch here in the playoffs.

Campbell is riding a wave of success over the past three games, starting with wins over New Orleans and Arizona at home. However, this latest effort was at a different level. Dallas came into this game with plenty of observers already anointing them as a likely Super Bowl winner.

Armed with a fearsome defense and a high-powered offense, the Cowboys were expected to roll Washington. But Campbell played another mistake-free game as he completed 20 of 31 passes for 231 yards, two touchdowns and, for the fourth straight game, no interceptions. Running back Clinton Portis helped the Redskins control the ball for more than 38 minutes by rushing for 121 yards.

However, the story of this game was Campbell, who continued his stunning maturation in the aftermath of a brutal opener and in the face of a tough defense.

"Where I thought Jason shined was that he stayed concentrated in difficult situations against a tremendous defense," Washington coach Jim Zorn said. "He didn't have any of the ups and downs, these sways of emotion. What I always talk to him about is bearing down and what I meant by that is … if you have to grit your teeth to get through difficult situations, you must. We were fortunate enough to beat a great football team, but part of that was his concentration level and he just kept it up the whole game."

Said left tackle Chris Samuels: "Jason kept standing in there and standing in there. He was tough."

Campbell put the Redskins ahead 17-7 in the first half and, except for a brief 17-17 tie in the second half, kept Washington in control the whole way. The win helped vault Washington into a tie for second place with Dallas in the NFC East at 3-1.

In each of his past three games, Campbell has finished with a quarterback rating of more than 100. He had only two such games in all of 2007. He also has yet to throw an interception in any of the first four games. He had a total of four games without an interception last season.

Campbell is playing smart football and did it against a team that has made some other good quarterbacks (Derek Anderson, Donovan McNabb and Aaron Rodgers) look jittery at times.

Hey, when a defense includes hulking men like DeMarcus Ware and Chris Canty, it can be downright scary. Campbell took three nasty hits from those two in the first half alone, yet remained unfazed.

"Yeah, they was coming," Campbell said. "When they hit you, you felt it. At the same time, you know this is a rivalry game and every division game I've been in has been a battle. There's a lot of lumber being thrown around out there."

But don't you think about flinching once in awhile?

"I can't do that. You can't let them get to you. You see them, heads back, full of steam. You have to look at them right in the eye and come right back at them," Campbell said.

Strangely, looking those guys in the eye was a lot easier for Campbell than looking at a television.

Hey, whatever works.