Then, in one cruel sequence, the Redskins rattled the drive into oblivion. False start on Fred Miller. False start on John Tait. False start on Ruben Brown. Kyle Orton sacked by Demetric Evans. Suddenly, it was third-and-38. The Bears' last good scoring chance was over, and Washington's defense showed it hadn't lost a beat from last year in leading the team to a 9-7 victory Sunday.
"I guess they know we're a blitzing team," Washington linebacker Marcus Washington said with a smile as he recounted the sequence. "A couple of times we're looking like we're going to come, with one foot up and eyes big. Those guys, they kind of panic a little bit, and they say, 'This Washington defense is coming.' Whatever it was, we were glad we were able to back them up a little bit."
The Redskins allowed only 166 total yards, overcame three turnovers, several untimely penalties and the loss of starter Patrick Ramsey, who had his neck wrung in the second quarter by blitzing linebacker Lance Briggs. Mark Brunell, booed mercilessly last year by the home fans, entered and led three scoring drives, all ending in field goals by John Hall and powered in part by the running of Clinton Portis, who rushed for 121 yards on 21 carries.
Ramsey is fine with a mild neck sprain, but coach Joe Gibbs would not commit to a starter for next week's game at Dallas. Hall isn't fine -- he strained his quad on his last kick and might not be able to play next week.
"I have to see how this all shakes out," Gibbs said. "We will see how everybody heals up, and I will sit and look at it and decide what we are going to do."
No one expected much scoring in a game between two tepid offenses and two bruising defenses, so it was fitting that the winning team didn't score a touchdown.
Orton, starting because of an injury to Rex Grossman, appeared calm in the pocket and made a few clutch throws, but his last three drives ended badly. A poor throw was deflected and intercepted by Lemar Marshall in the end zone, then came the drive with all the false starts, and then he lost a fumble when he was stripped of the ball by Cornelius Griffin with less than two minutes to play. He completed 15 of 28 passes for 141 yards.
"The interception was a big play, but I still thought he did good for his first time out," Chicago coach Lovie Smith said. "We have to do some other things better around him. Even with all that, I thought we were in great shape in the fourth quarter. We were in position to at least be able to get a field goal -- and the three penalties really knocked us out of it."
Chicago's only score came after Washington's Antonio Brown fumbled the opening kickoff of the second half, allowing Orton to lead a short drive that ended with Thomas Jones' 1-yard run.
The Redskins, seeking to rebound from a 6-10 record in Gibbs' comeback year, won their fourth straight season opener, although the victory was hardly a convincing one. The Bears, like the Redskins, are expected to struggle this season. Gibbs opened up the offense considerably -- using spread formations, passing in running situations and even using safety Sean Taylor as a receiver -- but the only play that reached the end zone was negated by Chris Cooley's offensive pass interference penalty.
"It's disappointing, but not that disappointing when you get the 'W,"' said Santana Moss, who caught four passes for 96 yards. "The defense has been holding it down for a while, but sooner or later we're going to be the ones getting tapped on the backs and saying they appreciate it."
Ramsey was knocked out of the game when Briggs leaped to get past right tackle Jon Jansen and reached with his right arm to clobber Ramsey neck-high. Ramsey went down immediately and fumbled. Adewale Ogunleye recovered for Chicago, denying the Redskins a chance for a field goal.
The Redskins felt Briggs should have been penalized.
"It was a shady hit," Brunell said. "I don't think guys should be playing that way."
Notes: Redskins RT Jon Jansen, who played with a cast after breaking his left thumb in practice last week, broke his right thumb in the game. He's expected to play next week -- wearing two casts. ... Chicago first-round draft pick Cedric Benson, who missed the preseason with a 36-day holdout, made his debut with three carries in the fourth quarter.