- The Washington Times - Monday, December 13, 1999

It wasn’t that the Redskins could do no wrong yesterday. They did plenty wrong as is their wont in games of consequence. No, what was different about their scrum with the Cardinals was that none of their various faux pas proved the least bit fatal. That might have been the most uplifting thing about their 28-3 victory: They didn’t beat themselves.
Could it be the fates are with them this time? After just missing the playoffs in ‘96 and ‘97, are the Redskins finally ready to break through? You could certainly make a case for it based on what happened yesterday. Consider:
1.) James Jenkins got called for illegal motion on third-and-goal at the Arizona 2 but it didn’t matter. (Brad Johnson fired a touchdown pass to Irving Fryar on the next play.)
2.) The special teams gave up a 68-yard kickoff return to the Washington 27 but it didn’t matter. (The Cardinals failed to score.)
3.) Marco Coleman drew a personal-foul penalty on a successful Arizona field goal try, giving the Cardinals another shot at a TD but it didn’t matter. (Champ Bailey picked off Jake Plummer two plays later.)
Shall I go on? How about the 66-yard touchdown pass to Michael Westbrook that was called back? Or the interception Johnson threw early in the second half, which could have jump-started an Arizona comeback? Or the INT he threw in the end zone in the fourth quarter, negating a 17-play drive? All those plays could have been killers. In years past, they usually were killers. But yesterday they didn’t affect the Redskins at all.
“We had mistakes that were very similar to the mistakes we had in Detroit,” Norv Turner said. “[But] I think we had some determination not to let those mistakes keep us from getting done what we wanted to get done.”
That was it exactly. Every time the Redskins made a bad play, they made a good play to make up for it. They didn’t let the Cardinals think, even for a moment, that they might steal this game (as they’ve had a habit of doing in this series). We haven’t seen the Redskins like this very often not in December, at least. December is usually when Romeo Bandison grabs Kent Graham’s facemask and the Cardinals go right down the field for the winning score. Or when Matt Turk drops a snap against the Giants and the Redskins proceed to get blown out. The Redskins aren’t exactly renowned for rolling with the punches.
But yesterday they did a pretty good rope-a-dope. Let’s face it, this game could have had a very different outcome. If the Redskins had been forced to settle for a field goal after Jenkins’ penalty and if the Cardinals had punched the ball in after Coleman’s penalty the score would have been 10-10 midway through the second quarter. And at that point, the Redskins might well have fallen victim to Here We Go Again Syndrome. The Cards, at the very least, would have been greatly encouraged.
“You’re right,” Darrell Green said. “Nobody was pulling their hair out today [when things went wrong]. We just said: Let’s stay committed to one another and go out there and do what we can do.”
Nobody in the Washington locker room had any illusions about yesterday’s victory. That’s another good sign. To a man, the Redskins talked about the errors they had made and how fortunate they were not to be undone by them.
Marco Coleman: “This was not a flawless game. We gave up a long pass [a 43-yarder to David Boston], a long return, we had some holding penalties on offense… .”
Fryar: “There were some things we did wrong today that in the past might have cost us the game. But we played through the hard times.”
And finally, there was this from Tre Johnson: “We made some mistakes. And the Colts are going to look at the film and try to figure out how to take advantage of them. We’ve got to recognize that and make every attempt to get better this week in practice. You don’t want to find out next week what you should have learned this week.”
Some will say the Redskins won this game on Saturday night, when Johnson and Coleman called a team meeting and got everyone in the right frame of mind. I’m not a big team-meeting guy, though. In most cases, I think, they’re vastly overrated. The Redskins had team meetings in ‘96 and ‘97, too, and what did it get them?
The way I look at it, this was just one game against a club that, as Turner said, “we match up [pretty well] with. We beat them by 14 points two months ago [in Arizona]. You’ve gotta win the games you can. You’ve gotta win the games you match up [well] in.”
The Cardinals offense poses few problems for anybody, even the Redskins. They’re not very good at running the ball, and their pass protection is pathetic. Their basic game plan is this: Try to stay close for three quarters, and maybe Plummer can pull it out for us.
On defense, the Cards can be run on as Stephen Davis (37 carries, a career-high 189 yards) showed once again. That plays right into the Redskins’ hands, because it enables them to keep their own D off the field. Did Arizona even have the ball in the second half? If so, I must have missed it.
Indianapolis will be a different story, though. A much different story. If the Redskins can commit half a dozen cardinal sins against the Colts and live to tell about it, they might be a changed team after all.

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