— As the ball hung in the air early during the fourth quarter Sunday, Washington Redskins cornerbacks Leigh Torrence and Carlos Rogers were drawn together in the moment.
Torrence closed well in a two-man sprint against Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Steve Breaston and tipped quarterback Kurt Warner's pass high, leading to Rogers' key interception and long return that helped set up the go-ahead score in Washington's 24-17 victory in front of 90,060.
"Those were two big game-changing plays right there," free safety LaRon Landry said. "We talk a lot about getting turnovers and getting the ball back to the offense in a good spot to do something with it. When two guys step up on one play like that, you can't ask for anything better."
Two plays after the Torrence-Rogers combination energized the Redskins and their fans, quarterback Jason Campbell threw a short screen pass to wide receiver Santana Moss, who maneuvered through Arizona's defense for a 17-yard touchdown. Moss's touchdown tied a team record — he has at least one scoring catch in five consecutive games, six including a playoff loss to Seattle — and gave Washington's defense the lead it was eager to preserve.
With defensive ends Jason Taylor and Andre Carter applying pressure to the end, the Cardinals ran seven offensive plays in thegame's final 12 minutes. Overall, Taylor deflected three of Warner's passes at the line of scrimmage.
Struggling rookie punter Durant Brooks performed better this week, with a 42-yard net average and improved hang time on two punts, but his lack of concentration while holding on a field goal attempt late in the fourth angered coach Jim Zorn.
For the second time in as many weeks, Campbell effectively directed the offense as Washington (2-1) ran out the clock. After the two-minute warning, Campbell teamed with tight end Chris Cooley for a 26-yard reception that gave the Redskins a first down and all but ended the Cardinals' hope of a comeback.
In large part because of its productive passing attack led by Warner and star wide receivers Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona (2-1) had a perfect record after two games for the first time since the 1991 season. Washington's secondary absorbed some blows from the trio but stood strong, and Torrence and Rogers provided timely inspiration for a team that has consecutive victories after its shaky opener.
"When you see something like that, when you see those guys creating turnovers and getting the ball back for the offense to have an opportunity to score, you have to like it," said Campbell, who completed 22 of 30 passes for 193 yards and two touchdowns and has no turnovers in three games.
"You see defensive guys and offensive guys high-fiving each other. That shows team unity."
After making many big plays in the second half of the victory over the Saints — including connecting with Moss on a go-ahead 67-yard touchdown pass late in that game — Campbell was perfect on the opening possession against Arizona. He completed his six passes to five receivers for 37 yards on the drive, which running back Clinton Portis (68 yards on 21 carries) capped with a 3-yard touchdown run.
It appeared the Redskins were on their way to taking another big step in Zorn's version of the West Coast offense. Quickly, however, the Redskins regressed, generating 47 yards on 17 plays for the remainder of the first half. They took a 10-7 lead into halftime.
Fortunately for the Redskins, the Cardinals' offense did not resemble the high-powered bunch from their first two victories. Boldin and Fitzgerald — who had seven receptions for 109 yards and a touchdown — are considered among the game's best wideout tandems, but defensive coordinator Greg Blache devised an effective scheme of zone and man-to-man coverages against them.
"We knew it was going to be tough," Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "They executed and made a lot of plays."
With Washington's secondary in two-deep zone coverage, Fitzgerald caught a 62-yard touchdown pass from Warner with 1:53 left in the third, and Arizona pulled even at 17 after place-kicker Neil Rackers's successful point-after attempt. Strong safety Reed Doughty made a costly mistake on the play, falling for Fitzgerald's fake on a corner route , "which is designed to mess with the safety," Doughty said. "And it did."
REDSKINS 24, CARDINALS 17Arizona07100 — 17Washington7377 — 24First quarter Was—Portis 3 run (Suisham kick), 8:28. Second quarter Was—FG Suisham 48, 13:08. Ari—Boldin 4 pass from Warner (Rackers kick), 2:43. Third quarter Ari—FG Rackers 26, 9:20. Was—Yoder 2 pass from J.Campbell (Suisham kick), 3:16. Ari—Fitzgerald 62 pass from Warner (Rackers kick), 1:53. Fourth quarter Was—Moss 17 pass from J.Campbell (Suisham kick), 12:10. A—90,060. AriWasFirst downs1921Total net yards313323Rushes-yards23-11631-136Passing yards197187Punt returns2-31-6Kickoff returns5-1033-54Interceptions ret.0-01-42Comp-att-int17-31-123-31-0Sacked-yards lost2-132-17Punts-avg.4-41.84-42.8Fumbles-lost1-10-0Penalties-yards6-427-67Time of possession26:5533:05INDIVIDUAL STATISTICSRUSHING—Arizona, James 18-93, Hightower 5-23. Washington, Portis 21-68, J.Campbell 4-26, Betts 4-23, D.Thomas 1-16, Sellers 1-3.
PASSING—Arizona, Warner 16-30-1-192, Urban 1-1-0-18. Washington, J.Campbell 22-30-0-193, Randle El 1-1-0-11.
RECEIVING—Arizona, Fitzgerald 7-109, Hightower 3-38, Boldin 3-25, James 2-15, Patrick 1-19, Castille 1-4. Washington, Moss 7-75, Cooley 7-72, Randle El 3-23, Portis 2-19, Yoder 2-4, D.Thomas 1-7, Sellers 1-4.
MISSED FIELD GOAL—Washington, Suisham 52 (WL).