- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 8, 2006

TAMPA, Fla. This city had been nothing but trouble for the Washington Redskins. Joe Gibbs suffered the worst playoff loss of his career here in Super Bowl XVIII. The Redskins had lost five in a row in Tampa including their last playoff game in the 1999 season and a controversial 36-35 verdict on Nov. 13.

But yesterday with the weather more typical of Washington than usually balmy Florida, the Redskins played like they were the home team. At least on defense. They converted two early Buccaneers turnovers into touchdowns and held on for a 17-10 victory that earned them a divisional round date on Saturday in Seattle against the NFC’s top seed, the Seahawks.

The Monday Morning Quarterback continues to marvel at the turnaround of the once-reeling Redskins and contemplates how bleary-eyed he’s going to be after taking the red-eye back from the land of the Space Needle next weekend.

Q: So how did we win so convincingly with so little from Clinton Portis, who had been carrying the offense during the 5-0 run that ended the regular season?

A: Big plays by the defense, which had been equally critical during the playoff-clinching tear. LaVar Arrington’s interception gave the offense the ball on the Tampa Bay 6. Sean Taylor returned a fumble forced by Marcus Washington 51 yards for his second such touchdown in as many quarters. And Washington, who should be in the Pro Bowl, sealed the victory with an interception.

Q: Taylor missed the first Bucs’ game with a sprained ankle. Is he that big a difference-maker?

A: He can be. So can defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin, who missed that game with a strained hip flexor. Griffin tipped a pass and was often a disruptive force.

Q: But Taylor got ejected in the middle of a tight playoff game!

A: Redskins coach Joe Gibbs said Taylor is the most researched draft pick in NFL history and a character guy, although he happened to tell the entire organization to shove it last offseason. Taylor might get suspended for his stupidity yesterday. The dilemma is that Taylor, who has a court date on a felony assault charge on Jan.17 in Miami, is also a terrific talent.

Q: Back to the game. Where the heck was the offense? Portis had put up big numbers on the Bucs before.

A: Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin saw that Brunell can’t hit anything beyond 10 yards and focused everything on stopping Portis, who had burned the Bucs for 292 yards in matchups the last two regular seasons. The result was the fewest yards (120) by a playoff victor.

Q: What happened to Brunell?

A: As we saw in the first half of last season before he was finally benched for ineptitude, Brunell, who sprained a knee on Dec.24 against the New York Giants, doesn’t play well if his legs aren’t right. But he also hasn’t had a big game in two months. Sure it hurts a lot not having a second wideout who can get open, but yesterday’s performance was just unacceptable. Brunell owes the defense some very nice gifts for bailing him out of being one of Washington’s biggest postseason goats in memory.

Q: The defense certainly made up for its poor performance in Tampa Bay, didn’t it?

A: This was arguably the best game by the defense during the impressive two-year Gregg Williams era, especially considering that it was minus three starters in the fourth quarter.

Q: Carlos Rogers got burned on Edell Shepherd’s late TD that wasn’t. Walt Harris is over the hill. Is Shawn Springs going to play in Seattle against the NFL’s top-rated offense?

A: Springs warmed up before the game and was close to playing yesterday. Another week and a return to his old stomping grounds in Seattle should get the Redskins’ No.1 corner back on the field.

Q: How much will the Redskins miss Renaldo Wynn, who has a broken forearm?

A: Wynn had been playing very well, but he doesn’t make many plays. He led the Redskins in pressures but had just 1 sacks. Wynn is a respected leader, but replacement Demetric Evans had three sacks during the season and another yesterday.

Q: It looks like LaVar Arrington is intent on going out with a bang, doesn’t it?

A: That was certainly closer to the No. 56 who has been No.1 in the hearts of Redskins fans for years.

Q: So what happens in Seattle?

A: It’s hard to pick against a team that has won six in a row, but the Seahawks are 21-4 at home the last three years and haven’t lost a meaningful game since Week4. Of course that loss was to the Redskins, but the Seahawks are the better team and they’re at home.

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