TAMPA, Fla. -- Maybe it was fitting that LaVar Arrington was right in the middle of one of the key plays in the Washington Redskins' first playoff victory in six years.
Midway through the first quarter of the Redskins' 17-10 wild-card win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Arrington found himself in the right place when teammate Joe Salave'a tipped Chris Simms' pass at the line of scrimmage. Arrington was waiting to receive the ball and immediately raced 21 yards to the Tampa Bay 6.
Moments later, Clinton Portis burst through the left side of the line to give the Redskins a 7-0 advantage, a lead they never relinquished. As he celebrated on the sideline, Arrington soaked it all in.
"With everything that's gone down this year," he said, "this kind of makes up for it."
Who could have seen this one coming? The former All-Pro linebacker who had been relegated to reserve duty for part of the season, the one who is all but certain to leave the organization after this season, the one who even brought up talk of retirement in recent weeks coming back to record a key interception in a playoff victory?
Who wrote this script?
"It's been one of those years for things to materialize the way they have," Arrington said. "It's almost storybook. Let's just keep hoping that the story has that real Hollywood movie ending. That would be great."
Arrington's interception represented his most meaningful play of the season by a large margin. He entered the game with 47 tackles, no interceptions, no sacks and no forced or recovered fumbles.
In fact, Arrington's last interception was all the way back on Dec. 16, 2001 against the Philadelphia Eagles.
"Wow, I didn't know it was that long," he said.
"I haven't lost my play-making abilities," he added. "I'm just doing everything I can possibly do to fit in with the team. I've been playing my part and my role since I've been on the field. It might not be as flashy as people would like."
A member of the Redskins organization for his entire six-year career without previously getting a sniff of the postseason, Arrington wasn't the lone member of the defense to rise to the occasion.
Fellow linebacker Marcus Washington was also seemingly in the middle of every big play. Less than five minutes after Arrington's interception, Washington forced and recovered a Carnell Williams fumble. And even though Washington subsequently fumbled the ball, he was immediately saved by teammate Sean Taylor, who scooped it up and scampered 51 yards for a touchdown.
"The guy just has a halo over his head," Washington said of Taylor, who was later ejected from the game for spitting on Bucs running back Michael Pittman. "He's got those big hands and he picks up balls like an eagle picks up trout from a stream. He's a special guy."
It was the second of three turnovers forced by the Redskins defense yesterday, continuing the unit's dramatic turnaround during the last two months. Following a frustrating Nov.20 loss to the Oakland Raiders, Washington's turnover ratio was a wretched minus-13. In seven games since, the team is plus-16.
"We work on [forcing turnovers] in practice," Washington said. "We concentrate on getting our hands up, knocking balls down, stripping balls, and it's starting to happen for us. We're starting to get somewhere with it."
Said assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams: "That's what we envisioned when we started to put this thing together. Marcus and Lemar [Marshall] have been doing that since they got here, and it's nice to have a healthy LaVar Arrington. It was good to see LaVar jump in there, 'cause he made a lot of nice plays."