- The Washington Times - Monday, December 6, 2004

If the Washington Redskins are going to take anything positive from the 2004 season — and Lord knows, there has been little for the taking — it will be the manner in which they have handled adversity.

Plenty of Redskins teams from seasons past would have long since stopped caring, would have played out the string with little passion and even less purpose.

But not this team. As they displayed convincingly during a 31-7 trouncing of the New York Giants yesterday, these Redskins are at the very least going down fighting.

“It’s through these hard times that we’re going to find out who’s a real Redskin,” cornerback Fred Smoot said, following his club’s most dominating performance of the season. “We’re going to see who’s got the will to win. No matter whether we win or lose, this is a group of guys I’ll go to war with any day.”

The Redskins had little reason to get up for yesterday’s matchup of floundering division opponents. There was, to put it bluntly, nothing at stake at FedEx Field.

Not that Washington played like it. With an offensive precision not seen once in the previous 11 weeks and the usual stalwart showing on defense, the Redskins (4-8) manhandled the Giants (5-7) and earned the respect of a grateful coach.

“I’m really proud of the character of our team,” said Joe Gibbs, who is going through perhaps the toughest season of his Hall of Fame coaching career. “There are great stories throughout this team that are really a tribute to our character. I’m glad to get the chance to brag about them.”

Gibbs was referring to several Redskins who have played through injuries and other adversities, but there were plenty of on-field performances to brag about yesterday:

• Like Clinton Portis, the recently forgotten star running back who exploded back into the limelight against New York with 148 yards on 31 carries and two touchdowns — one rushing, one receiving.

• Or Patrick Ramsey, the beleaguered young quarterback who played the most efficient game of his career, completing 19 of 22 passes for 174 yards, three touchdowns and a sparkling 139.2 rating.

• Or just about anyone on Washington’s second-ranked defense, which held the Giants to 145 total yards (59 of which came in the game’s final four minutes).

“It clicked tonight on all cylinders,” defensive end Renaldo Wynn said. “It couldn’t have worked out better.”

This was a rare showing by the Redskins. They beat an NFC East rival for the first time in six games, dating to last December’s win at the Meadowlands. They won for the first time at FedEx Field in five games, going back to the opener against Tampa Bay. And at long last they cracked the 20-point barrier, ending a futile streak of offensive ineptitude that spanned the entire season.

Plenty among the crowd of 87,872 must have had the same thought as the afternoon played out: Who are these guys, and where have they been all year?

“We were consistent across the board,” Ramsey said. “That’s the way I’ve always kind of felt about it: If everyone could consistently do their job, we were going to be able to be successful. Finally, today we were able to do that.”

From their opening drive — a 13-play, 93-yard march down the field — the Redskins made it known they were in control. Ramsey completed his first four passes, executing Gibbs’ ball-control game plan to perfection. And one week after rushing the ball a season-low six times at Pittsburgh, Portis carried seven times for 49 yards on the first drive alone. His 1-yard touchdown run gave Washington a 7-0 lead it never relinquished.

“We pushed the ball down the field and got it into the end zone,” Gibbs said of the impressive opening drive. “That was the biggest thing. We’ve been making first downs all year, but we haven’t been making the plays to make it into the end zone.”

The Redskins wound up reaching the end zone four times yesterday, once more than they did in their previous four games combined. And they did so with authority, moving at will against the Giants’ injury-plagued defense.

Shortly following the 93-yard drive, Ramsey engineered a 10-play, 91-yard march, capped by a nifty, 4-yard shovel pass to Portis for the tailback’s second touchdown of the day. And when Walt Harris’ blocked punt gave the Redskins the ball at the New York 31, Ramsey went back to work, finding tight end Robert Royal in the back of the end zone for a 9-yard score.

Royal’s first career touchdown sent Washington into halftime with a commanding 21-0 lead, and Ramsey went into the locker room with a Phil Simms-like passing line: 11 of 12, 104 yards, two touchdowns.

“This has been the most comfortable I’ve been in the pocket as a Redskin,” said Ramsey, who certainly benefited from his teammates’ 211 rushing yards. “It makes your job easier when you drop back to pass and [the defense is] kind of limited in what they can do because they have to put so many guys in the box to stop [the run]. It’s huge when you have something like that going for you in a game.”

Ramsey added another touchdown toss early in the fourth quarter — a 6-yard strike to H-back Chris Cooley. By then, the Redskins had all but secured victory, the only tenuous moment coming on Derrick Ward’s 92-yard kickoff return in the third quarter.

Not that Washington planned to let that lone blemish spoil what was an otherwise perfect day.

“Through all the adversity and everything that’s happened, I’m just hoping we play great down the stretch,” Gibbs said. “Maybe we can fight real hard down the stretch, and who knows what will happen?”

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