Steve Spurrier came to pass in his NFL coaching debut yesterday, but he also came to run. In a 31-23 win over the Arizona Cardinals, the Washington Redskins coach proved it's not just a passing fancy when he talks about his running game.
"Over a period of time, we'll prove we can run the ball," Spurrier told a huge media contingent after his college offense ravaged the Cardinals for 442 total yards and several big plays.
With Spurrier calling the plays, running back Stephen Davis carried 26 times for 104 yards and one touchdown. Quarterback Shane Matthews threw 40 times for 327 yards and three touchdowns.
That's probably as close to a balanced attack as the Redskins will have - or likely need.
"A lot of teams think we air it out every time," said left tackle Chris Samuels, "but we let them know we still have Stephen Davis back there."
Matthews threw 27 times in the first half and the Cardinals took a 13-10 lead thanks to a deflected pass that became an interception and ultimately an Arizona touchdown.
In the second half Matthews threw less, but more effectively, after the Redskins delivered the Davis reminder. Davis carried on seven of the team's first 11 plays to start the second half, and not coincidentally, the Redskins scored on their first three possessions.
"The ability for them to get him going early in the third quarter opened up the passing game and it was reflected when they ended up scoring," said Cardinals defensive tackle Marcus Bell.
When the Redskins played power ball with Davis, the Cardinals were forced to bring a safety up near the line of scrimmage to stop the run.
"And that's when they hit a couple of deep passes on us," said Cardinals coach Dave McGinnis.
Davis gouged the Cardinals for 19 yards on three consecutive runs to start the second half. Two plays later, Matthews hit wide receiver Rod Gardner for a 29-yard completion to the 10.
Davis covered the remaining territory in two carries, the second a 3-yard touchdown run behind Samuels and fullback Rock Cartwright on a toss sweep that Arizona couldn't stop all game.
One play after Davis gained 12 yards on the toss on the next series, Matthews dropped a perfect pass into Gardner's hands for a 43-yard touchdown at the expense of cornerback Duane Starks. The former Raven had good coverage on Gardner, but Gardner had inside position to make the catch.
Altogether, Davis ran 16 times in the second half for 69 yards. He had nearly as many catches (seven) as rushes (10) in the first half. The grand total of 33 touches dispelled the preseason contention that Davis might not get as many touches in Spurrier's pass-oriented system.
"I didn't buy into that," Davis said. "To win a championship in the NFL, you've got to be able to do both, run and pass."
Davis even got the distinction of getting the ball on the first play of Spurrier's Redskins' career when he gained 1 yard on a draw to start the game. Turns out Spurrier didn't call the draw.
"[Matthews] checked that," Spurrier said, almost embarrassed. "It was a zone and we went to the run instead of a man-to-man pass."
Next for Redskins
Site:FedEx Field, Landover
When:Next Monday, 9 p.m.
TV/Radio:Chs. 2, 7/WJFK (106.7 FM)
Line:Eagles by 1 1/2