- The Washington Times - Monday, January 2, 2006

PHILADELPHIA — Mark Brunell sat on a folding chair at his locker with a sack of ice over his throbbing right knee.

The Washington Redskins’ quarterback eventually struggled to his feet with a grimace, dodged a moving baggage cart and hobbled across the locker room to the trainer’s area.

Brunell’s team clinched its first playoff berth since the 1999 season with a 31-20 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, but the 13-year veteran did not have an easy day or an impressive performance.

Brunell completed just nine of 25 passes for 141 yards with one touchdown and an interception, posting a 52.3 quarterback rating. The Redskins’ defense led the way, but the 35-year-old Brunell did just enough to ensure a victory and a playoff spot.

“There is no other word to describe Mark Brunell but a warrior,” Redskins receiver Santana Moss said. “When he is out there on the field, regardless of whether [he] is 50 or 60 percent, I know he is going to give it his all.”

Brunell did have some highlights: He threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Mike Sellers in the first quarter to give the Redskins a short-lived 7-3 lead. He made a nice rollout and completed a 41-yard pass to James Thrash that set up a first-half field goal. And he completed a 54-yard pass to Moss to set up Clinton Portis’ 2-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.

Still, the offense stuttered more often than it delivered.

Brunell was called for intentional grounding and threw an interception on an underthrown pass shortly before halftime. He made a nice run out of the pocket to pick up a first down with 4:21 left in the game. That drive, however, soon stalled, and the Eagles got the ball back down 24-20 with 3:11 left.

“We were a little disappointed because we didn’t move the ball as well as we wanted to,” Brunell said. “We are very fortunate as an offense to have those guys [on defense] playing as well as they were.”

Brunell said his knee did not limit his mobility, though he was limited to only walk-throughs at practice Thursday and Friday.

Brunell was effective enough — with the help of Portis’ 112 yards rushing — to finally lead a once-moribund team into an unlikely postseason appearance.

“You win five in a row, it says a lot about our football team and our character and how we stuck together,” said Brunell, whose career seemed to be over last season as he battled injuries and lost his job to Patrick Ramsey. “We have come a long way in a year. I am real thankful, thankful for another shot at this thing.”

Clobbered corners

Top draft choice Carlos Rogers, who became a starter in November, missed his third straight game because of a torn muscle in his left biceps.

Shawn Springs, who missed practice time because of an injured groin the last three weeks, finally gave into the pain in the second quarter after he was flagged for pass interference on third-and-21 and then got beat by Reggie Brown for the subsequent 8-yard touchdown catch.

Then, Ade Jimoh, who plays sparingly, was carted to the locker room at the end of the third quarter with an irregular heartbeat.

“I was really hurting before [the penalty], but I couldn’t get off the field,” Springs said. “It’s pretty bad. I’ll probably get an MRI tomorrow. I’m happy that we’re in the playoffs, but I don’t know if I’ll be in there. I’m glad we’ve got good backups.”

Jimoh said he wasn’t really worried because he had suffered from the condition before, although not in a long time.

“I didn’t want to come out of the game, especially with Carlos and Shawn hurt, especially at such a crucial point of the game. But I didn’t have a choice,” Jimoh said. “I’ll be fine.”

The Redskins were so thin at cornerback that Christian Morton, just activated from the practice squad on Tuesday, was pressed into the lineup. And yet Washington limited Philadelphia to three points and 117 yards in the second half.

“I played some games with Atlanta this year and last year so it wasn’t like I was all nervous,” Morton said. “I don’t know all the ins and outs of the defense, but [safeties] Sean Taylor and Ryan Clark did a really good job of keeping me comfortable. I was thankful for the opportunity.”

Said Clark: “It’s a testament to our coaching staff.”

Moss rolls to record

Santana Moss set the Redskins record for receiving yards in a season, gaining 83 yesterday for a total of 1,483 for the season. Moss broke the record of Bobby Mitchell, who had 1,436 yards in 1963.

The 5-foot-10 wideout broke the mark with a 54-yard reception on a deep pass from Mark Brunell down the left sideline to set up a first-and-goal at the Eagles’ 6. Two plays later, Portis’ 2-yard run tied the game at 17-17.

“Who would have thought?” said Moss, who was traded for a disgruntled Laveranues Coles in the offseason in what many saw as a bad trade for the Redskins. “I am grateful just for having the opportunity I have. I recall myself last year just looking for the opportunity to be the guy that I see so many other guys have been.”

Moss had nine touchdowns this season, but none yesterday. He caught four passes, but he was more proud of a play that won’t go in the stat sheet: a downfield block he made, allowing Portis to score the go-ahead, 22-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter.

“It almost felt better than a touchdown,” said Moss, who sealed the block on the outside and allowed the tailback to go by. “I was blocking him for so long I let go because I didn’t want to hold them and Portis just outran him to the end zone.”

Thrash is back

Receiver James Thrash, who missed four weeks because of a hamstring injury, made an instant impact opposite Santana Moss with a 41-yard catch late in the first half that gave the Redskins the ball at the Philadelphia 15. The reception set up a 25-yard field goal by John Hall that trimmed Philadelphia’s lead to 17-10.

“These games aren’t promised to anyone,” the ninth-year receiver said. “You have to earn your spot here. We’re excited to have a chance to do something special.”

Salave’a keeps cool

Defensive tackle Joe Salave’a made one of the key plays of the game — by doing nothing.

The Redskins trailed 20-17 early in the fourth quarter. During a pass play, Eagles offensive lineman Jon Runyan appeared to head-butt Salave’a, who didn’t retaliate. Runyan was penalized 15 yards, forcing the Eagles into consecutive passing situations.

Two plays later, Lemar Marshall picked off a pass by Eagles quarterback Mike McMahon and returned it 4 yards to the Philadelphia 22. Clinton Portis scored the Redskins’ go-ahead touchdown on the next play.

“That’s the way he plays,” Salave’a said of Runyan. “That’s the way he plays, and I’m sure they’re happy to have him because he brings tenacity to the field. But the emotions got the better of him.

“It was tough [not to fight back], but no person is bigger than the team and losing my cool at that point wouldn’t have helped anybody. I’m glad [Cornelius Griffin] grabbed me when he did because I was close to losing it.”

Taylor’s first TD

Sean Taylor added the exclamation point to the victory by returning a Koy Detmer fumble 39 yards and diving into the end zone for the touchdown that made the score 31-20 with 2:16 left. It was the first touchdown of Taylor’s two-year career.

“I played running back in high school so I kind of knew what to do,” he said. “I just had to make one guy miss.”

Ryan Clark didn’t miss much time after going down with a sprained knee in the first quarter. He sealed the victory with an interception, just as he did to clinch the 17-10 triumph over the Eagles on Nov.6.

Sellers strikes again

H-back Mike Sellers waltzed into the end zone untouched on a 4-yard catch, giving him eight touchdowns on just 13 touches this season. Only Clinton Portis (11) and Santana Moss (nine) scored more in the regular season.

“I don’t know why they keep leaving me open, but I’m not going to complain,” Sellers said with a laugh.

Bowen sits

Safety Matt Bowen (knee), like cornerback Carlos Rogers (biceps), missed his third consecutive game yesterday. Bowen practiced all week leading up to the game and said Friday he was healthy enough to play.

Other players listed as inactive for the game were running back Nehemiah Broughton, defensive back Dimitri Patterson, defensive tackle Ryan Boschetti, receiver Jimmy Farris and defensive end Aki Jones.

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