- The Washington Times - Monday, January 3, 2000

It's hard to know what to make of Washington's regular season-ending 21-10 pasting of Miami yesterday evening before 78,106 fans at FedEx Field. The game meant nothing to either team.

By kickoff, the NFC East champion Redskins (10-6) knew they would be opening the playoffs at home next weekend after Tampa Bay had claimed the NFC playoff's second bye with a victory over Chicago earlier in the day. And the Dolphins (9-7) knew they had qualified for the postseason thanks to the New York Jets' upset of Seattle.

Washington will play host to Detroit on Saturday at 4:05 p.m.. The Lions are the NFC's final wild-card team thanks to their loss to Minnesota and Dallas' victory over the New York Giants. If the Redskins beat the Lions (8-8) no 8-8 team ever has won a playoff game they would visit the Bucs the following Saturday at 4:15 p.m.

The Redskins lost to the Lions and former Washington starting quarterback Gus Frerotte 33-17 on Dec. 5 at the Silverdome. Detroit snapped a 19-game losing streak against the Redskins. That included playoff victories in 1982 (31-7 as backup receiver Alvin Garrett caught three touchdowns passes) and 1991 (a 41-10 pasting in the NFC Championship game).

"They kicked our butts in all three phases the last time, so this is a chance for redemption," Washington linebacker Shawn Barber said.

"As the game started, I was thinking about what this stadium is going to be like next week," Redskins coach Norv Turner said. "A month ago, we went into Detroit and struggled with the crowd noise. We had a bunch of penalties, false starts and holding because we were off the ball late. The crowd is going to be on our side. It's going to be loud. It's going to be exciting.

"They're a very good team. We're going to have to play a lot better than we did in the first game. We had a tough time handling their speed and quickness. They're a very athletic defensive front. We did a good job against the run, but they hurt us with some big plays in the passing game. We know we need to play our best to advance."

The fact yesterday's game was meaningless meant that starting quarterbacks Brad Johnson of Washington and Dan Marino only played a half each. Turner rested several ailing starters halfback Stephen Davis and receiver Albert Connell as did Miami coach Jimmy Johnson receivers Tony Martin and O.J. McDuffie, halfback J.J. Johnson and tight end Troy Drayton.

Turner said he expects Davis and Connell to face the Lions. Davis was leading the NFL in rushing before missing the last 2 and 1/2 games with a sprained ankle and Connell sat out with a bad shoulder.

"This game won't be about revenge," Brad Johnson said of Saturday's contest, Washington's first playoff game in seven years and first at home in eight years. "It will be about win and move on."

Yesterday, the Dolphins outgained the Redskins 389-270 but lost four turnovers while Washington had none.

Reserve defensive backs Darryl Pounds and Mark McMillian ended Miami's first two drives at the Washington 32 and 8 with a fumble recovery and interception, respectively. Except for a second-quarter series which ended in a 39-yard field goal by Pro Bowl kicker Olindo Mare, the Dolphins didn't cross the Washington 40 again until there were six minutes remaining in the game. By that time the Redskins led 21-3.

Washington built that lead on: an 8-yard touchdown run in the second quarter by Skip Hicks, starting his second straight game in place of Davis; a 30-yard scoring pass on the second play of the third quarter from backup quarterback Rodney Peete to Irving Fryar, starting for the first time in place of Connell; and Peete's 4-yard toss to fullback Larry Centers with 6:25 to go.

The Redskins won 10 games for the first time since their 1991 Super Bowl season and beat a winning team for the first time since topping Detroit on Nov. 9, 1997.

"We did a very good job tonight," Turner said. "We handled New Year's and this week in a business-like manner. I was pleased that we were able to play a lot of guys. We were able to stay fairly healthy. We won. It's hard to win 10 games in this league. There were some times this year when some people doubted that we could get it done. But our players and our coaches never did. They competed and stayed in it. But it changes now. It's a whole different deal."

Turner, who helped the Cowboys win back-to-back Super Bowls in 1992-93, is well aware of that. But 31 of his 53 players will be making their postseason debuts. Only cornerback Darrell Green, third-down back Brian Mitchell, reserve linebacker Kurt Gouveia and backup tight end James Jenkins have suited up in a playoff game for Washington, which is 12-2 at home in postseason.

"We're looking at it a little more optimistically at 10-6 than we would have been at 9-7," said Pro Bowl guard Tre Johnson, one of those 31 playoff newcomers.

"It has been an awesome year," Pro Bowl passer Brad Johnson said. "To finish 10-6, win the division and have homefield advantage in the first game is what you work for. The 16 games are over and everyone should be proud of it. But now, everything starts from scratch. You make a name for yourself in the playoffs."

Just ask Fryar, who played in Super Bowl XX for New England 14 years ago and is going to the playoffs with a fourth team.

"If you lose your first [playoff] game, you're better off not making it in the first place," he said.

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