Campbell Puts Pick-Free Run on Line

Redskins QB's streak at 230 passes

Ben Roethlisberger has nothing but admiration for the big zero that still sits on Jason Campbell's row of stats halfway through the season.

"It's impressive in this league," Roethlisberger said, "not to throw an interception."

It's impressive, surprising and even a bit flukey, but the fourth-year Washington Redskins quarterback who this year had to learn a new offense has had all 230 of his passes land either in a teammate's hands or on the ground.

The streak faces its biggest hurdle to date Monday night when the Redskins host the Pittsburgh Steelers, who have the league's top-rated overall defense as well as the top-rated pass defense.

"It's unbelievable that he hasn't thrown a pick," Redskins tight end Chris Cooley said, "based on the chance that somebody's going to drop a ball, tip a ball up in the air. It's not only saying that Jason is smart, it's saying that you have a lot of luck on your side as well. Or all of our receivers are just catching the ball.

"But weird things happen in football games. I don't want to jinx him or jinx us, but it's a huge credit to the way he's playing that he's protecting the ball like that. It'd be really cool to say he went through the whole year without a pick."

That would certainly be a first. In fact, no NFL team has ever made it through an entire season throwing fewer than five interceptions. Campbell is only 56 attempts away from Bernie Kosar's record of 286 pick-free passes to start a season.

"That is a bit of a novelty, not planned out," Washington coach Jim Zorn said. "I don't know how many games in a row he can continue to do that. But to his credit, he has tried to make good decisions. He has thrown the ball away in good spots, when necessary. We had some balls batted, like every quarterback, and they fall into the ground."

The Redskins as a team have set a league record with 360 throws without an interception, with their last regular-season pick coming on Dec. 2, 2007. Todd Collins, promoted after Campbell went down with a knee injury, didn't throw one in the final four regular-season games last year, although he did have two in the playoff loss at Seattle.

Campbell says he tries not to think about the streak, that he's only trying to manage the game as best he can. Those who know him well aren't surprised.

"He's a very, very poised quarterback," said Steelers safety Ryan Clark, who was Campbell's teammate in Washington before signing with Pittsburgh in 2006. "He's one of those guys who's like an old spirit. He was, like, 30 years old when he got there. He had the full mustache. I mean, young kids don't wear just a mustache and no goatee; it's pretty funny looking. But he's always been really poised. You can see him going through so many offensive coordinators and still being able to produce."

For comparison's sake, Roethlisberger has never thrown fewer than nine interceptions in a full season. He already has seven this year, including four last week in a 21-14 loss to the New York Giants.

That loss dropped the Steelers to 5-2, with both losses coming against NFC East teams. Monday night presents another test against the best division in the NFL, with the Redskins (6-2) only one-half game behind the Giants for best record in the NFC.

"The NFC East," Pittsburgh receiver Hines Ward said, "that's a hard division."

Campbell's streak has remained intact in part because of the Redskins' ability to run the ball. Clinton Portis leads the league in rushing with 944 yards and has at least 120 yards in five straight games.

But the Steelers haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher all season. Campbell might be forced to throw more often was usual Monday night.

"Something's got to give," Campbell said. "Because they're a tremendous rush defense, and we're second in the NFL in rushing. That's where it starts -- up front."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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