The Washington Redskins newest rich player combined with one of the oldest ones Sunday to swing the tide in the second half. The priciest roster in NFL history debuted with a 20-17 victory over the Carolina Panthers.
"People think we've added 15 guys who are egomaniacs," said coach Norv Turner, who also got solid games from newcomers Deion Sanders and Mark Carrier. "We've added 4-5 guys who are real, real pros. They'll do anything we want them to do to win."
Smith, in his first game not in a Buffalo uniform, had two of the Redskins' six sacks, including his stumbling blindside jolt that forced Steve Beuerlein's fumble in the third quarter. The only turnover in the game was converted into a field goal that tied the score 10-10, and showed the 37-year-old defensive end still has plenty in the tank.
"It may not be full, but I think I'm still productive," Smith said. "Especially when I'm playing with guys like we've assembled here."
Eluding tacklers on a tiring defense, Davis carried 10 times for 54 yards on those two drives. He finished with 23 carries for 133 yards, including a 2-yard touchdown run on the Rdskins' first drive.
"I was going to come out here and play, contract or no contract," said Davis, who led the NFC in rushing with 1,405 yards.. "I felt the more I got the ball, the better I got."
The Panthers, ineffective on offense for most of the game, scored their only touchdown in a no-huddle, 65-yard drive capped by Beuerlein's 20-yard pass to Wesley Walls with 1:52 to play.
However, the Redskins recovered the onside kick, and Davis took the next handoff and ran 33 yards. He followed that with an 8-yard gain to run out the clock.
"This isn't college," Sanders said. "We don't care about winning by a certain number of points. We're not playing to be ranked nationally."
Michael Bates' 92-yard first-quarter kickoff return was the only other touchdown for the Panthers, who stayed close with a valiant defensive performance that wilted in the humidity. It was almost a moral victory for a team that lost seven players to season-ending injuries and all four exhibition games.
"Everybody is touting these guys to be Super Bowl champions and our resolve was to come in here and steal one," safety Eugene Robinson said. "I think we demonstrated that. This team can take a lot out of this loss."
On their first possession, the Redskins looked like a precision machine. Johnson went 7-for-7 in a 79-yard drive that lasted 7:09 and was capped by Davis' scoring run.
But all that work was erased in 15 seconds by Bates on his fifth career kickoff touchdown return.
Richie Cunningham kicked a 29-yard field goal to make it 10-7 as Carolina coach George Seifert matched Turner's mix of formations and plays.
Carolina missed a chance to extend the lead in the second quarter after moving the ball to the Redskins 2. But Beuerlein was sacked and William Floyd compounded the loss with a late push for a personal foul. Cunningham then missed a 27-yarder.
While the Redskins' offseason investments paid dividends, the Panthers' new defensive additions weren't as stellar. Reggie White, Eric Swan, Chuck Smith and Jay Williams combined for four tackles and no sacks.
"We erase a few of our mistakes: don't miss the field goal, don't get the penalty down on the 2-yard line and don't give up the sack, and we win the game," said White, who played about 30 plays. "But sitters and quitters don't win games."
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