Redskins Head Past Cowboys Into Playoffs
Redskins Head Past Cowboys Into Playoffs
By JOSEPH WHITE, AP Sports Writer
Mon Dec 31, 1:27 AM ET
LANDOVER, Md. - From disarray to dominance, the Washington Redskins will enter the playoffs as the hottest team in the NFC.
And with the hottest quarterback in the conference. And maybe the hottest running back. And with a defense coming off a game in which it allowed exactly 1 yard rushing.
The Redskins reached the postseason Sunday with a 27-6 victory over the archrival Dallas Cowboys, capping an emotional renaissance to a season that appeared lost less than a month ago. Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs, seemingly on the ropes after a four-game losing streak, received warm embraces from players and assistants as the final seconds ticked away.
The Redskins did it by beating a Dallas team that rested anyone who was questionable with an injury because it had clinched home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs the week before. Still, the Cowboys played their healthy starters most of the game and were trailing 20-3 when quarterback Tony Romo was pulled for Brad Johnson with about 6 1/2 minutes left in the third quarter.
The Redskins (9-7) will travel to Seattle on Saturday for a 4:30 p.m. game, a rematch of a 2005 division playoff won 20-10 by the Seahawks. Washington will be riding a four-game winning streak, the longest currently in the NFC. Its last three victories have been by double digits, a remarkable turnaround for a team that stayed afloat with close, ugly victories before losing four straight, the last coming days after the shooting death of safety Sean Taylor.
The Redskins are 4-0 since Taylor's funeral, and all the victories were engineered by backup quarterback Todd Collins after Jason Campbell dislocated a kneecap in the first half against Chicago on Dec. 6. The 36-year-old Collins went 22-for-31 for 244 yards and one touchdown Sunday and is 67-for-105 for 888 yards with five TDs and no interceptions since relieving Campbell.
Clinton Portis ran for two touchdowns and had 104 yards on 25 carries and 27 yards on four receptions, setting a career high for yards receiving in a season (389). His yards from scrimmage in the four-game winning streak: 122, 126, 124 and 131. Santana Moss caught eight passes for 115 yards and a touchdown.
The game ultimately turned out to be irrelevant — other than to serve as a possible preview of a postseason game two weeks from now. Minnesota lost 22-19 to Denver and New Orleans fell 33-25 to Chicago, giving Washington the two out-of-town results it needed to make the postseason without having to beat Dallas.
The NFC East champion Cowboys (13-3), who will have a bye next week, tried to muster any motivation they could find, but almost none of their goals were realized. They had hoped to win a 14th regular-season game for the first time in franchise history. Jason Witten caught only two passes, falling four short of becoming the second tight end to get 100 in a season. Receiver Terry Glenn, active for the first time all season, failed to catch a pass.
Marion Barber not only finished 25 yards shy of his first 1,000-yard season, but Barber (minus-6 yards) and Julius Jones (7) combined for 1 yard — setting a new franchise record for rushing futility. The Cowboys defense allowed a 100-yard rusher for the first time this season. The offense went 0-for-11 converting third downs, and Dallas lost its season finale for the eighth straight year.
At least Romo (7-for-16 for 86 yards and an interception) set the single-season franchise record for completions (335). And four injured starters — receiver Terrell Owens (ankle), cornerback Terence Newman (knee), center Andre Gurode (knee) and nose tackle Jay Ratliff (knee) — will get extra time to heal before the playoffs.
Former Redskins great Dexter Manley revived memories of the old days by taking the microphone and leading cheers of "We want Dallas!" from the field before kickoff. The Redskins obliged by outgaining the Cowboys 105-14 in the first quarter.
The first four Redskins drives ended in Dallas territory, although they produced only 10 points. Portis somersaulted into the end zone to celebrate the end of a 23-yard scoring run; he broke free after Cowboys defensive backs Anthony Henry and Roy Williams collided trying to tackle him.
Back-to-back completions to Moss and Portis set up a 46-yard field goal by Shaun Suisham, giving the Redskins a 10-0 lead. The score was 13-3 at halftime, and Portis' 1-yard run in the third quarter pushed the lead to 17 and turned the rest of the game into an exhibition.
All week long, I told anyone who would listen that I thought the Redskins might beat the Cowboys by three touchdowns. Dallas would rest their starters early, Romo would only play a couple series, T.O. and Glenn would be out. If the Cowboys stayed in it, I acknowledged, it would be because of Marion Barber and Julius Jones.
Well, Dallas didn't rest many starters after all. Romo played most of the game and couldn't get anything done. (In his defense, he did throw a pretty pick to Shawn Springs, and he lay down pretty well after Chris Wilson sacked him on the final play of the first half.) Jones and Barber, the best one-two rushing punch in the league, combined for one freaking yard. Yes, the Cowboys had nothing to play for. But if you're a Dallas fan, you've got to be concerned that your team really looked like a team with nothing to play for. They didn't show up, not just the starters but the backups who should have been using this opportunity to show what they can do.
Dallas Fan is blowing this game off. He says his team is 13-3, they had nothing to play for, and no reason to risk injury. He might even point out that the 1991 Redskins put in a similar effort in their season finale, losing to finish 14-2 before plowing through the playoffs and the Super Bowl. But the Cowboys haven't been able to run effectively for a few weeks. They haven't had a consistent passing attack with Owens injured. They haven't won a playoff game in more than a decade; they lost one to the Cardinals, for crying out loud. They're 13-3 in a weak, weak conference (one that has a once 5-7, now 9-7 Redskins team as the sixth seed--I'm a fan, but that's weak). They have no reason to believe they can turn it on and off at will. Maybe they'll turn it around in two weeks for their divisional round playoff game, which could be against these same Redskins. But I'm not sure I'd bet on Dallas in that matchup.
Meanwhile, the Redskins are playing like the best team in the NFC. Not just the hottest, the best. Much like two seasons ago, when the team ran off five straight to finish 10-6, they finish on a four-game win streak, the current longest in the NFC. Portis, who missed the entire preseason, is running like mama's homemade biscuits: hot and fresh. Backup QB Todd Collins is really connecting with Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle El. The defense is playing like eleven #21s; they're flying around the field, making big plays, and hitting like sledgehammers. And they're stopping the run like a brick wall: the one thing which has been the Redskins' downfall for years. Seriously, NFC playoff teams, raise your hand if you want to face the Redskins right now. No hands? Sorry, Seattle. You're up next, Saturday at 4:30.
So I predicted a three-touchdown victory and the Redskins delivered. It was the players who noticed that the margin of victory was 21, Sean Taylor's number. Multiple Redskin players told the same story after the game: After the last defense meeting before the game, coach Gregg Williams put a photograph up on the projector. It was a picture of Sean Taylor, taken by a fan during training camp. Taylor had signed his name on the pic, and under his signature had written, "WE WANT DALLAS!"
My man C.P., last week's NFC Offensive Player of the Week, scored two touchdowns. He just keeps getting stronger as the weeks go by.
Chris Coooooooooooooley with the first down catch!
Touchdown Santana Moss! You know, it wasn't just that they pulled some starters; the Cowboys looked like a downright bad team yesterday.