- The Washington Times - Monday, November 26, 2001

PHILADELPHIA — We begin this morning with some homespun wisdom from Darrell Green. Asked how he feels about the Redskins' brace yourself playoff chances after their 13-3 win over the Eagles, the Oldest Active Redskin said, "It's like a tollgate."
Like a tollgate, Darrell? How so?
"Well, if the toll is 35 cents, and you've got 33 cents and I've only got a dime guess what? the gate isn't going to go up for either of us. You have to have the exact amount of money."
What Darrell was saying as only he can is that the Redskins haven't accomplished anything yet. Yes, they've managed a remarkable turnaround from 0-5 to 5-5, but you need more than five victories to qualify for the postseason.
Here's the thing, though: Six weeks after everybody was throwing dirt on them This Space included the Redskins aren't just in the running for the NFC East title, they're in control of their own destiny. (Sort of.) If they can just win the four division games left on their schedule one against Dallas (home), two against Arizona and the rematch against Philadelphia (also home), they'll have at least nine victories and a 6-2 mark in the NFC East. That figures to be enough to get the tollgate to go up, as Darrell would put it.
"Just do the math," he said.
I just did the math. And then I did it again because I couldn't believe the answer I came up with. It's true, though. The Redskins have one buttock if you'll pardon the expression in the driver's seat in the division.
Marty Schottenheimer has them playing wonderfully minimalist football these days. The offense, for instance, never seems to do much, just enough to beat the other team. Against Carolina, it scored 10 points and the Redskins won. Against Denver, it scored 17 points and the Redskins won again. And yesterday it exploded for a touchdown and two field goals and the Redskins won their fifth straight.
With Schottenheimer, a little goes a long way. Tony Banks and Co. gained all of 240 yards against the Eagles, and Banks had just 96 yards passing. Stephen Davis broke a 26-yard run on his first carry and picked up only 53 yards in 21 attempts the rest of the way. The Redskins' leading receiver? Rod Gardner, with four catches for a whopping 33 yards.
But in the final 10 minutes, when the offense was trying to kill as much of the clock as possible, Banks made two huge throws the first to Rod Gardner on third-and-9, the second to Michael Westbrook on second-and-9 to launch a 15-play drive, the kind of drive playoff teams put together. By the time Brett Conway trotted out to kick the clinching field goal, only 30 seconds remained. You couldn't have scripted it any better.
It's strange watching the Redskins play, though. Schottenheimer leans so heavily on his defense and with good reason, by the way that even Banks admits there are stretches when the offense is "playing not to lose" rather than to win. One such stretch came early in the second half yesterday; in the Redskins' first three possessions, they had but one first down (and netted minus-1 yard).
This isn't very exciting in fact, it's deadly dull but Schottenheimer isn't interested in entertaining people. He's only interested in winning. So if he's ahead in a game and his defense is controlling the line of scrimmage, he's perfectly content to run low-risk plays, protect the football and make you take the chances.
Fortunately for the Redskins, the Eagles were willing to play the same kind of game though I'm not sure why. I mean, what the heck happened to Donovan McNabb yesterday? Here you've got the most dangerous running quarterback in the league, and Andy Reid has him stand back there in the pocket as if he were Norm Van Brocklin. McNabb didn't take off and run, really run, until the last play of the game (when he gained 33 utterly meaningless yards).
It's a crime, it truly is. Turning Donovan McNabb into a pocket passer is like turning Marlon Brando into a song-and-dance man in "Guys and Dolls."
I wonder if the Eagles know what hit them. I wonder if any of the Redskins' recent victims know what hit them. They seem to be expecting the 0-5 Redskins to show up the Redskins who lost consecutive games by 27, 37 and 32 points but those Redskins are looong gone.
"We've won five in a row to get back to mediocrity," Banks cracked. "I don't think we're a mediocre team, but 5-5 is a mediocre record."
In the next few weeks, they'll have an opportunity to do something about that. The kind of opportunity that comes along once every, well, who has ever started out 0-5 and made the playoffs?

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