It was beginning to slip away for the Washington Redskins.
The Carolina Panthers had just answered Washington's go-ahead touchdown, which came on a pass from Jason Campbell to Antwaan Randle El, with a TD drive of their own. It was a grinder, with Carolina taking 15 plays and 7:07 to move 74 yards. The payoff came on Jake Delhomme's touchdown pass to Steve Smith on third down at the seven. It looked like Delhomme had thrown the pass high, as he had often during the game, but Smith went up and got it, tapping his toes inbounds before falling out of the end zone.
That put Carolina up 13-10 with 7:55 left to play. On the Redskins first play from scrimmage things got worse for the home team. Jason Campbell threw his first NFL interception. He was bound and determined to throw deep to Santana Moss despite the fact that Moss was well covered by Richard Marshall. It was an easy pick for Marshall and the Panthers had the ball right back at their 27 yard line. The Washington defense, which had just been out there for a long Carolina drive, had to go right back out on the field. At that point it wasn't hard to envision the Panthers putting together another time-consuming drive and scoring again with very little time left on the clock.
But the Redskins defense made a stand.
1-10-CAR 27 (7:39) 45-B.Hoover up the middle to CAR 28 for 1 yard (99-A.Carter, 95-J.Salave'a)
2-9-CAR 28 (6:57) 17-J.Delhomme pass incomplete deep middle to 18-D.Carter (22-C.Rogers)
Delhomme pump faked and went to Drew Carter on a go route. Carlos Rogers was with him all the way and jumped when the ball got there. The ball ended up bounding off of Carter's face mask and it fell incomplete.
3-9-CAR 28 (6:49) 17-J.Delhomme pass short right to 89-S.Smith to CAR 35 for 7 yards (24-S.Springs)
Delhomme took a short drop and, while there were Redskins all around him and Marcus Washington was headed towards him on a delayed blitz, he still had time in the pocket. He found the slippery Steve Smith running across the middle about three yards shy of the first down. Apparently figuring that he could elude Shawn Springs, who was right behind him, Delhomme fired the ball to Smith. Delhomme figured wrong as Springs immediately wrapped Smith up and brought him to the ground well short of the line to make.
The Panthers punted and Washington took over at its own 20 with 5:51 left to play. On first down Betts went up the gut for 12 yards, putting him over 100 yards on the day. Two plays later following a two-yard Betts run and an incomplete pass it was third and eight at the 34.
As Campbell listened for the play in his helmet he got the formation to call but the signal cut out before he could hear the play called. He told his teammates in the huddle that he couldn't hear the play call. The Redskins had only one timeout left, having burned one defensively and having lost one on the unsuccessful challenge of Smith's touchdown. Someone helped the young quarterback out.
"Call a play," a voice said.
So Campbell did. The one he called had Brandon Lloyd as the first option but when Campbell saw him covered he stepped up into a Panther blitz and fired a strike to Cooley at midfield. The tight end had dropped what may have been a touchdown pass in the third quarter but this time he held on. There were two Carolina defenders in the area. Cooley ran through Chris Gamble's attempted arm tackle and safety Mike Minter wasn't in position. Cooley easily broke his try to bring him down. By the time he got to the 40 he was in the clear with Lloyd trailing to provide interference. Lloyd gave Marshall a little shove so that Cooley could glide across the goal line. The point after made it 17-13 with 4:26 left and a couple of defensive stops later the Redskins had their fourth win of the season.