More than 100,000 people braved rain and mud for a free concert staged by the NFL Thursday to mark the opening of football season on the National Mall.
A little while later, the Washington Redskins and New York Jets got the NFL season rocking and rolling on the field.
Six blocks of the Mall were filled with a crowd estimated at 130,000, who turned out to see Britney Spears, Aerosmith and Aretha Franklin, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said.
The crowd was orderly and only two people were arrested, U.S. Park Police said.
As for the game, it was a satisfying experience for Washington, a.k.a. the JetSkins, whose players let their feelings be known when the grudge match was finally over and they had won.
Kicker John Hall confessed that he dreamed "the whole offseason" about making a game-winning kick to beat his old team in the NFL's season opener. He did just that Thursday night, nailing a 33-yarder with 5 seconds left to give the Washington Redskins a 16-13 victory over the New York Jets.
"It's pretty much one of those stupid things you do when you're done practicing," said Hall, who also had kicks of 50 and 22 yards. "You make up those situations where you have this or that and I'm sure you know which team it was against."
Guard Randy Thomas, who has spoken politely of his ex-teammates, snatched a moment of glee as he watched the ball sail through the uprights.
"To see those guys with their faces down when the kick went in, it was a lovely feeling," Thomas said.
The other two JetSkins the spoils of an audacious offseason raid by Redskins owner Dan Snyder did their parts in an instant rivalry created by the offseason player tug-of-war. Laveranues Coles danced and scowled his way for 106 yards receiving on five catches all in the first half, and Chad Morton was solid in his debut as the Redskins' return man.
"Thank goodness Mr. Snyder went out and got us a heck of a kicker," said coach Steve Spurrier, who went through three kickers last year. "The way our kicking situation was last year, I don't see us winning this game."
Patrick Ramsey, not the most nimble quarterback, set up the winning score with a 24-yard scramble to New York's 31-yard line. Ladell Betts carried three times for 17 yards to wind down the clock for Hall's attempt.
"It's tough because when it's tied up, you'd like to win it," New York coach Herman Edwards said. "For the most part we stayed in the game. We weathered the storm early, got some turnovers but had to kick field goals."
Ramsey completed 17 of 23 passes for 185 yards, but only 29 yards came after halftime as Spurrier's Fun 'n' Gun offense went surprisingly conservative. Ramsey also turned over the ball twice in the second half, setting up two Jets field goals that tied the game.
"When we threw the ball in the second half, nothing good was happening," Spurrier said. "I got sort of afraid to go back there. Our defense was playing so well, we just put in on the ground."
Vinny Testaverde, returning to the starting job after a preseason wrist injury to Chad Pennington, completed 15 of 24 passes for 105 yards for New York.
Of the four ex-Jets, Coles was the only one to voice any real animosity toward his former team during training camp. He found Hall's game-winner to be a perfect ending.
"It just goes to show that sometimes the grass is greener on the other side," Coles said.
Redskins linebacker LaVar Arrington was a terror, chasing down players in the flat to turn potential long gains into short ones. His stats six tackles and one batted pass didn't begin to show the difference he made as the Jets were held to 158 total yards in the NFL's second annual Thursday night opener.
The JetSkins made their presence known right away. Morton returned the opening kickoff 23 yards. Coles made a 25-yard catch over the middle and celebrated with a mini-dance. Thomas helped pave the way for the 12-play drive capped by Hall's first field goal.
But the Jets went all the way on their opening drive, with Edwards successfully gambling on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line. He took top rusher Curtis Martin out and gave the ball to LaMont Jordan, who leaped over the pile and into the end zone.
Spurrier did his own fourth-and-1 trick on the next drive, with Betts converting with a short run at the Jets 27. Darnerien McCants finished the drive with a 4-yard TD catch to put Washington ahead 10-7.
On the next drive, Ramsey somehow ducked under blitzing linebacker Mo Lewis and found Coles for a 48-yard gain over backup safety Tyrone Carter, who entered after Jon McGraw left with a concussion on a helmet-to-helmet tackle.
Coles jawed at the sidelines after that catch, then gave an emphatic "first down" sign after a 22-yard reception two plays later. The catch set up Hall's 22-yard field goal, making the halftime score 13-7.
Ramsey was nearly perfect in the first half 12-for-13 for 156 yards but his second pass of the second half was intercepted by Donnie Abraham and returned to Washington's 26. The Jets couldn't punch it in, however, settling for Doug Brien's 30-yard field goal.
Ramsey's second turnover set up another field goal that tied the score in the fourth quarter. John Abraham, who had two sacks, stripped Ramsey of the ball, and Jason Ferguson recovered at Washington's 43. Five plays later, Brien made a 41-yard field goal with 8:13 to play.
The concert was part of Operation Tribute to Freedom, a military effort to encourage public support for U.S. troops coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan. The best seats in the crowd were reserved for 25,000 military personnel, with a member of each branch of the armed services introducing a musical act.
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