- The Washington Times - Monday, December 31, 2007

In the last month, the Washington Redskins proved they could handle the worst kind of adversity: the murder of their best player. They rallied together after Sean Taylor’s death to win three straight games to put themselves in position to clinch an NFC playoff berth.

Yesterday at rainy FedEx Field, the Redskins proved they can handle prosperity.

Where New Orleans and Minnesota couldn’t handle playing on their home fields with a playoff berth at stake, the Redskins cashed in on the opportunity without much doubt. Led by Clinton Portis‘ two rushing touchdowns and a defensive effort that allowed 1 yard, the Redskins earned a trip to Seattle with a 27-6 thrashing of the short-handed Dallas Cowboys.

A perfect 4-0 in seemingly win-or-else games, the Redskins now face the dreaded short week/long trip problem, playing Saturday in Seattle against the Seahawks.

In the eyes of the Monday Morning Quarterback, this could be just the start of an interesting January for the Redskins. They’re playing that well on defense and getting that much production from Portis and Todd Collins.

Q: It took a while, but the Redskins eventually seized control. In the grand scheme of things, was the performance impressive or average considering Dallas didn’t field its “A” team?

A: The MMQB stamps this win as “impressive” considering the stakes and the opponent (Dallas’ starters still played into the second half).

Judging by the comments from some inside the locker room Friday — the players knew a loss might end their season — the MMQB half-expected the Redskins to come out tight. Instead they scored on their second possession and never trailed, leading 10-0, 13-3 and 27-3.

Now comes the fun part: The Redskins return to their familiar role of underdog against Seattle. Expect them to be a loose bunch this week as they prepare for the Seahawks.

Q: Collins‘ salary drive continued with his third win in as many starts. Why haven’t defenses been able to figure out this guy yet?

A: With every solid performance, the chance of Collins returning to the Redskins next season shrinks. The more he shines against top teams like Dallas, the more a desperate general manager or coach will think he also can help Collins find some 2008 magic. And don’t rule it out.

A team like Atlanta (which is expected to draft a quarterback) could sign him to start for a year while the kid gets ready. Miami, with Bill Parcells shopping for the groceries, might want a caretaker while John Beck watches for another year. Collins might be 37 next year, but he hasn’t taken a pounding for 10 years — that has to count for something.

Q: Clinton Portis looks like he has been resting for three months, not playing for 16 weeks. How impressive has his resurgence been?

A: Very. A month ago, he looked done for the season. He wasn’t breaking tackles. He wasn’t getting first downs. There were calls (including by the MMQB) that Ladell Betts should get more work.

But during the last three games, Portis has seemingly found a second wind. He gained 126 yards against the Giants, a hard-fought 76 yards at Minnesota and 104 yards yesterday. That makes everything else on offense work — the play action, the pass protection, the time for Collins to find Moss and Cooley.

Q: The Cowboys‘ rushing yardage could be measured in feet instead of yards. Dallas’ 16 carries netted three feet (1 yard). That’s two straight weeks the Redskins have controlled the line of scrimmage how come?

A: Minnesota had the league’s best rushing game last week, and Adrian Peterson was rendered a nonfactor. Dallas’ Marion Barber III and Julius Jones made no impact yesterday. A couple of things make the Redskins good against the run — they have good tacklers, athletic linebackers and a stud safety (LaRon Landry), and their cornerbacks can be trusted in man coverage with just one safety deep.

Q: Tony Romo played one series into the third quarter, and Terrell Owens didn’t play at all. How much did that affect the game?

A: Romo looked totally miserable in the conditions and was probably the happiest guy on the field when he was told his day was over. But when he did try to find Witten and Patrick Crayton in the first half, safety Reed Doughty and cornerback Shawn Springs did a nice job keeping them in check.

If these teams meet in two weeks at Texas Stadium, Owens will be the top priority, of course. He accounted for all four Cowboys touchdowns in the teams’ first meeting last month. Expect the Redskins to return to their Cover 2 roots if they can get by Seattle.

Q: The Redskins and Seahawks haven’t played since the NFC Divisional round playoff game two years ago a 20-10 Seahawks win. What’s your first take on the matchup?

A: Running the ball with any consistency is going to be tough for either team. As productive as Portis and Shaun Alexander have been in their careers, the teams’ defenses have been fantastic against the run in the last month. That means it will come down to the quarterbacks. Matt Hasselbeck (28 touchdowns, 12 interceptions) has played in a Super Bowl; Collins has never started a playoff game.

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