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Walters: A Post-season Rematch

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Old 01-06-2006, 11:22 AM   #1
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Walters: A Post-season Rematch

A Post-Season Rematch

Fire up the grill, marinate those steaks, and ice down the adult beverages, folks, your Washington Redskins are back in the playoffs. From the moment human missile Sean Taylor launched himself into the end zone after recovering a Philadelphia fumble, it was apparent that Joe Gibbs had effectively ended the six-year playoff drought that Washington had suffered through. The Redskins needed five consecutive wins – three of which would have to come on the road – and as the final seconds ticked off the Lincoln Financial clock that is exactly what they had delivered.

The game didn’t start the way the previous two had ended for the Redskins. Washington came out of the gate stiff, almost appearing afraid to make a mistake. Somehow the same team that had been in control for most of the previous two games against superior teams now found themselves unable to put away this shell of a team. The six turnovers forced by the defense would eventually prove to be too much for the Eagles to overcome, but not before many anxious moments had ticked mercilessly away.

The game would turn on one of the better plays you’ll ever see from a linebacker. Philadelphia quarterback Mike McMahon fired a bullet (or, “wizard” if you own the Washington basketball franchise) that Lemar Marshall both deflected and subsequently intercepted to lead to the Clinton Portis scamper that gave the Redskins the lead for good. Marshall stood in such close proximity to McMahon that it was impressive that he was even able to get a hand up fast enough to alter the flight of the ball. To then have the presence of mind to snag his own deflection is nothing short of astonishing for a linebacker. It is plays such as this one that have many Redskins fans forgetting that they once worried that Marshall wouldn’t be able to keep up the standard that Antonio Pierce set last season. In fact some would argue, and you can count me in this number, that believe that Marshall has actually been better than Pierce.

Watching the game from the Redskins unofficial southern headquarters, it seemed almost a blessing that Philadelphia coach Andy Reid pulled starter Mike McMahon in favor of his backup Koy Detmer. McMahon had certainly made mistakes, but he had also made several key plays as well. His mobility had bought him more time, and his arm strength had been a thorn in the side of the depleted Washington secondary all evening. When Detmer trotted on the field, the sense of calm that Reid had hoped to provide for his own team seemed to permeate the fans of his opponent.

Perhaps the relative success McMahon had Sunday night best illustrates the largest concern the Redskins have for Saturday’s rematch with the Buccaneers. Should-have-been-Pro Bowler Shawn Springs has been fighting through a painful groin injury that eventually took him out of the Eagles game on Sunday, and threatens to keep him out of the Redskins first playoff game of the millennium. Rookie Carlos Rogers is set to return from his biceps injury, and Walt Harris is fighting through some nicks of his own. Even reserve Ade Jimoh, who has played well enough recently to shed rented mule status, was forced out of action Sunday, although his return is expected for Saturday’s showdown.

The game ball for the season finale has to go to halfback Clinton Portis, who had his fifth consecutive 100 yard game en route to setting a franchise single season record for yardage. Portis has continually proven that he is both capable and willing to shoulder the heavy load carrying the ball. Portis finished regular season play with 1,516 yards and 11 touchdowns, and started all 16 games for the first time in his career. His yardage total was good for a surprising fourth in the NFL, his 11 scores were the sixth most in the league. He seems to have taken the offense on his back and carried them directly into the playoffs, and this might also be the road the team chooses to follow throughout any run they make this January.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention yet another despicable display of behavior from a Philadelphia crowd which has become increasingly indistinguishable from a mob of savages. Clinton Portis’ mother had to be escorted on the field late in Sunday’s game because some Philadelphia fans had thrown things at her as she sat in the stands. Root for or against whomever you want, but there is no circumstance under which it is acceptable to hurl objects at other fans or players.

In life in general, there is no one person to whom an even higher level of respect should be shown than our mothers. You don’t use the same language, act in the same manner, or behave the same way towards women – mothers in particular – as you would with other men. It comes as no surprise that the same people who booed a possible life-threatening Michael Irvin neck injury, hurled batteries at Santa Claus, and necessitated the first judge and lock-up in the bowels of the stadium, would be so classless as to not honor the sanctity of someone’s mother. Typical Philadelphia charm I suppose.

The sickening body of work turned in by numerous Philadelphia crowds makes painting their fan base with such a broad negative brush unfortunately fitting. If a team has to have a judge on call to dispense justice immediately, it is obvious that their fan base has a level of sophistication that would embarrass the Lord of the Flies children. No doubt this disgusting display of Philadelphianism was authored by some drunken slug that would have emptied his colon in terror if Portis had been there to defend his mother instead of being on the field thrashing the his team. Let us all hope that the Eagles’ basement jail has a basement and that this fan, or fans, has taken up residence there. Here’s also hoping that Portis’ mother was not hurt or embarrassed in any way by the typical expression of Philadelphia Eagles hospitality.

In much better off the field news, this week also saw the Redskins agree to terms on a three-year extension with defensive guru Gregg Williams, whose defenses have been the engine behind the Redskins steady play of late. Williams, who was mentioned for every available head coaching vacancy, will now be in Washington for the foreseeable future, though there is no specific verbiage in the contract that prohibits his taking a job elsewhere. The agreement also lends credence to the long-held thought that he is to be the successor to Joe Gibbs when he ultimately decides to call it a career for the second time. Many coaches have had much more success in their second opportunity, and Williams figures to be no different, given his recent success with the defense and the mentor he currently works under. Truly this agreement may set the course for steady when it comes to the head coaching position of the Washington Redskins for years to come.

By kickoff on Saturday, it will be eight days shy of six years since the Redskins last played a post-season game, ironically also in Tampa Bay. That game, you’ll recall, was lost by the same margin as the Redskins visit to Tampa earlier this season. I say lost in the official sense because it was obvious to anyone watching not wearing striped shirts that Mike Alstott did not cross the line. Memories of that game are not plentiful around Redskins Park, with only Jon Jansen and Cory Raymer having been in uniform for Washington that fateful day.

Truly the last Tampa Bay game left a deep wound in the flesh of Redskins Nation. It was that game that placed the Redskins’ backs against the wall because it removed the luxury of a tiebreaker. Aside from that play, Alstott had a very productive afternoon against a normally stout Redskins run defense, as did quarterback Chris Simms. Rest assured that if Tampa is to best the Redskins for the second time this season (again officially), it won’t be done in the same fashion as their first triumph. Stopping inexperienced quarterbacks like Simms who have showed their team up once already is a trait of all good coordinators like Williams.

The players should be motivated beyond what Redskins fans have seen in years. Not only are they seeking to redeem an alleged loss earlier in the season, but they are also hungry to prove that their playoff berth was no fluke. It would seem to the average fan that Washington has already achieved plenty this season; that simply making the playoffs would be good enough. The players aren’t thinking this way, and neither are the fans. Washington set out five weeks ago to make the playoffs and having done that, they are priming themselves to advance, not to bow out satisfied at having been including.

Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s playoff time and the Washington Redskins have been invited to the dance. They are the team no one wants to play, as is evident by their having defeated three of the five teams ranked ahead of them in the seeding, with their lone “loss” coming at Tampa Bay. It has been a long time since the Redskins’ last playoff week, so enjoy it, and don’t be so sure that it will be the only one this season.

Check back in next week for your weekly Redskins football fix. Hail to the Redskins!

Questions and comments can be sent to Trevor Walters at skins.fan@comcast.net

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