LANDOVER, Md. &
Not only did the Washington Redskins win with a new quarterback, it sure looked as if they had a new head coach.
Was that really a Joe Gibbs team throwing all those passes when the Redskins were putting the game away in the fourth quarter? In a game for which the notoriously conservative Hall of Fame coach had little time to prepare? With journeyman backup Todd Collins under center?
Indeed it was, and for a change the Redskins didn't blow a second-half lead. Washington broke a four-game losing streak Thursday night with a 24-16 win over the Chicago Bears, capping a physically and emotionally exhausting 10 days with a victory that keeps its playoff hopes intact.
"It seems like it's been forever since we won a game," Gibbs said. "This team's overcome so much. It's been an emotional roller coaster for us."
Sean Taylor's death 11/2 weeks ago, and the funeral on Monday, had taken an obvious toll on everyone in the organization. The compressed week meant the team didn't even hold a regular practice to prepare for this game.
On the field, Gibbs was coming under increasing scrutiny for his lackluster game management and for five blown halftime leads this season.
Then came another huge piece of drama during the second quarter of Thursday's game: Jason Campbell, who had taken every snap this season, was carted off with a dislocated left kneecap, the severity of which was to be determined with an MRI on Friday.
Never mind. At least on this night. Collins, who hadn't thrown a pass in a regular-season game since 2004, went 15-for-20 for 224 yards and had his first two TD throws in five years.
"I've been preparing as a No. 2 to get an opportunity for literally hundreds of games," said the 36-year-old Collins, whose only season as a starter came with Buffalo in 1997.
And, unlike Sunday, when the Redskins squandered an 11-point lead against the Buffalo Bills by going into a shell, Collins kept throwing with a lead in the fourth quarter, and a 16-yard pass to Ladell Betts with 2:45 remaining put the game away.
"It was four weeks in a row we gave the game away," said tight end Chris Cooley, who had 93 yards on five catches. "It was great we could come in and play the fourth quarter the way we did. It was a lesson learned from last week. We came out on that last drive and really threw the ball down the field. We opened it up. We did what we feel we do best. It was awesome."
The victory moved the Redskins (6-7) within a half-game of the leading teams competing for the second wild-card berth in the mediocre NFC. The Bears (5-8), meanwhile, appear done &
the latest Super Bowl runner-up to come back with a dud of a season.
"With all the expectations we had, with all we believed we could do, it's been bad," defensive end Alex Brown said. "It's been real bad. I know people use the saying, 'Never in a million years.' That million years came this year. It was bad. Everything was bad. Nothing went the way we felt it would go. And it's over. It's pretty much over now."
Like the Redskins, the Bears had to make do with their second quarterback of choice. Rex Grossman hurt his knee on Chicago's second drive and did not return. Coach Lovie Smith would not speculate on whether Grossman would return this season, other than to say: "It didn't look good."
Grossman's replacement, Brian Griese, threw interceptions on consecutive passes in the second quarter, both picked off by Shawn Springs. The cornerback returned the first 53 yards, setting up Collins' 21-yard touchdown pass to another backup, tight end Todd Yoder, to put Washington ahead 7-0.
Griese finished 21-for-45 for 295 yards and raised his interception total to 12 in seven appearances this season.
For that matter, the game was rife with blunders, perhaps because of the cold weather, perhaps because of the short week, or simply perhaps because neither team has been very good. There were three missed field-goal attempts in the first half and 10 penalties in the third quarter. The teams combined to rush for a meager 91 yards.
"It is amazing," said receiver Bernard Berrian, who caught Griese's only touchdown pass. "I sit at home sometimes and think, 'Are we really in this position?' And it's hard, because we really can't pinpoint why."
Notes: Yoder's TD catch was his first this season. ... Bears DL Tommie Harris said he was bumped by a fan who ran onto the field. "I didn't know whether to beat him up," Harris said. ... Griese's 17-yard scoring pass to Berrian in the third quarter ended Washington's streak of nine quarters without allowing a touchdown. ... Other Washington injuries: DE Phillip Daniels (sprained knee), RB Clinton Portis (stomach illness and bruised hand), RG Randy Thomas (elbow), CB Fred Smoot (cramps) and Cooley (bruised shin). Chicago DT Antonio Garay injured an ankle. ... Coincidentally, tickets for the game, printed months ago, featured a picture of Taylor.
With QB Campbell hurt, 'Skins rally to beat Bears
LANDOVER, Md. &