- The Washington Times - Monday, January 3, 2000

It was a day for celebration and anticipation, not drama.
The crowd at FedEx Field sang "Hail to the Redskins" with a gusto not heard in seven years, when the Washington Redskins last made the playoffs. Banners lined the walls around the field for the first time in the stadium's three-year history.
The Redskins prepared for their first playoff game since 1992 by beating the Miami Dolphins 21-10 yesterday before 78,106 in a game that was dominated by backups and altered neither team's postseason plans.
The Redskins, the champions of the NFC East, play host to the Detroit Lions on Saturday at FedEx Field in the opening round. If they win that game, they will travel to Tampa Bay to face the Buccaneers on Jan. 15. The Bucs ended the Redskins' hopes of a first-round bye before kickoff in Washington with a victory over the Chicago Bears. There was no drama for the Dolphins, either; Miami backed into the AFC playoffs when the Seattle Seahawks lost to the New York Jets in an early afternoon game.
But for yesterday's crowd, the game was a chance to celebrate the team's first division title since 1991, a crown claimed by the Redskins with an overtime victory over the 49ers at San Francisco on Dec. 26. The pumped-up crowd cheered everything from the three touchdowns the Redskins scored against the Dolphins to the dancing Hogettes and old John Riggins highlights shown on the scoreboard.
"I started thinking about what this stadium's going to be like [Saturday]," coach Norv Turner said. "We went into Detroit [on Dec. 5] and struggled with crowd noise. Now, the crowd is going to be on our side. It's going to be loud and it's going to be exciting."
Said defensive tackle Dana Stubblefield: "The crowd knew it was a meaningless game, but they were excited. We need that next week to a different level."
The fans, of course, chanted "We want Dallas" in the final minutes even though the teams can't meet until the NFC Championship Game.
"I did flashback" said guard Rod Milstead, a native of Waldorf, Md. "I can remember running around my living room chanting the same thing back in the '80s."
The Redskins (10-6) instead will face the Lions (8-8), who ended a 19-game losing streak to Washington with a 33-17 victory at the Pontiac Silverdome four weeks ago. Washington has beaten Detroit in the playoffs twice, taking the 1982 and 1991 NFC championship games.
Players avoided calling it a game of revenge for the earlier loss.
"They kicked our butts the first time," receiver Irving Fryar said. "They deserved to win. They wore us out. We had a chance to prove to the fans and ourselves that we could beat a good team, and we didn't do that… . We have to prepare better than last time."
Yesterday's victory was the Redskins' first over a winning team since November 1997. Washington was 12-24-1 against winning teams during coach Norv Turner's six-year tenure, 0-2 this season. It was the final hurdle to overcome before the playoffs in a season that has included two overtime and four victories gained late in the game.
"It was important to be 10-6 for us. We didn't want to be 9-7," guard Keith Sims said. "Even though neither team had anything to play for, we wanted to win the game."
Still, both teams pulled key players after halftime to avoid injuries. Instead of Redskins quarterback Brad Johnson and Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino, it was Rodney Peete and Damon Huard.
Seldom-used backups such as tackles Marc Boutte and Doug Brown, safety Darryl Pounds, quarterback Casey Weldon and receiver Derrius Thompson made appearances. The Redskins didn't bother to activate injured running back Stephen Davis, the team's leading rusher, and receiver Albert Connell.
"It's a good sign that we know we can rotate backups and the starters can get some rest," Stubblefield said.


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