- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 1, 2008

After a horrible six quarters following the loss of Pro Bowl safety Sean Taylor against Philadelphia on Nov. 11, the Washington Redskins regrouped and finished fourth in run defense and eighth in total defense, a year after ranking 27th and 31st in those categories.

“After what happened last year, we’ve got to be proud of how we played,” defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin said.

The resurgent defense held Dallas’ NFC-best offense, to a single yard (equalling its fewest allowed in 65 years) on 16 carries and 147 total yards in Sunday’s 27-6 playoff-clinching win.

“A spectacular effort on their part,” coach Joe Gibbs said. “If you’re going to get something done in the playoffs, your defense is going to have to lead you.”

Following the ugly 2006 that followed two top-10 seasons on defense, the Redskins signed middle linebacker London Fletcher, drafted safety LaRon Landry, promoted weakside linebacker Rocky McIntosh (now out for the year and replaced by veteran Randall Godfrey) and replaced Kedric Golston with fellow young tackle Anthony Montgomery.

“It’s a different attitude, a different work ethic and London’s the best leader I’ve ever been around,” safety Reed Doughty said. “I don’t feel like we’re playing with any [more] effort. There’s just a different focus on … being accountable.”

Williams said he doesn’t feel vindicated after being questioned when the defense plunged last year.

“I feel real good about the guys and what they’ve been able to go through,” Williams said. “We just want to keep rolling.”

Campbell not back soon

Don’t look for Jason Campbell to play in Washington’s playoff opener at Seattle on Saturday.

Redskins coach Joe Gibbs said Campbell, the starting quarterback until he dislocated a kneecap on Dec. 6 against the Chicago Bears, won’t be ready for the Seahawks or perhaps further playoff games if the Redskins keep winning.

“We doubt right now that Jason will be back … yet,” Gibbs said. “He’s still got quite a long ways to go. We think right now, it will probably still be into the future before we get him ready.”

Winning for Taylor

Running back Clinton Portis, the only Redskins player asked to speak at Taylor’s Dec. 3 funeral, spoke yesterday with his late friend’s father and fiancee.

“They’re fine,” Portis said. “[They said] ‘Happy New Year, congratulations [on making the playoffs in his honor].’ They enjoy what we’re doing here, keeping Sean in our thoughts and prayers.”

Smoot’s drought ends

It took seven seasons with the Redskins and Vikings, but Fred Smoot reached the postseason.

“It’s sweet, but it will be sweeter when we win these next three [playoff games],” said Smoot, who missed Washington’s 2005 postseason after signing with Minnesota that March. “A lot of teams are done, but we still got a lot more work to do.”

Thrash in boot

Backup receiver James Thrash, who missed four recent games with a high ankle sprain, hurt it again against Dallas and is in a walking boot.

However, Gibbs wouldn’t rule Thrash out for Saturday. Gibbs is also hopeful that Godfrey will be able to recover from the abdominal strain he suffered against the Cowboys and play at Seattle.

The coach said offensive tackle Stephon Heyer didn’t report for treatment of his mild sprained knee, telling the training staff he was fine. Offensive tackle Chris Samuels will play with a sprained finger.

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