- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 24, 2005

Two weeks ago it was Antonio Brown returning a kickoff for what turned out to be the winning score. Yesterday it was Patrick Ramsey bounding off the bench after Mark Brunell got hurt and leading two touchdown drives to clinch the game. The Redskins’ season is turning into a Wes Craven movie — players keep coming back from the grave to breathe life into the team’s once nearly dead playoff chances.

Which “Tale from Beyond the Crypt” will we be treated to New Year’s Day, when the Redskins try to wrap up a postseason berth against the Eagles? Who knows, maybe invisible-man LaVar Arrington will choose an opportune time to record his first sack since Sept. 12, 2004.

(That reminds me. The Redskins did put Randy Thomas on injured reserve, didn’t they? Because if they didn’t, my money’s on Randy to scoop up a Washington fumble and rumble broken-legged into the end zone … in overtime.)

After these first 15 games — and, in particular, the last few — how can you not expect the unexpected in Philly? How can you not envision 43-year-old Ray Brown, Thomas’ stand-in at right guard, throwing the key block on the key play? Or perhaps John Hall, who missed six weeks with an injury, will boot his first game-deciding field goal since the opener.

In fact, let’s talk to Hall, who, appropriately enough, left the locker room after yesterday’s 35-20 win over the Giants dressed as the Ghost of Christmas Present — aka Santa Claus.

“I’ve got a 6-month-old kid waiting for me in the parking lot,” he explained.

Tell us, John, what do you make of this “Night of the Living Dead” stuff — of Antonio Brown, cut after the first game, coming back to make an important contribution and Ramsey, benched after the first quarter of the first game, throwing a 72-yard touchdown pass to Santana Moss on his fifth play yesterday?

“It’s a league of opportunity,” St. Nick said, “and the guys on this team are getting opportunities and making the most of them. We all work hard in practice to prepare ourselves for every game. Nobody’s ever thinking: I’m not going to be a factor this week.”

And with that, Hall climbed into his sleigh, gave the reins a gentle tug and went off to pick up Mrs. Claus and his son, Incentive Claus (or rather, Brady).

A few steps away, leaning on his crutches, was Thomas — also decked out in holiday garb. The cast on his right leg was decorated with red and green stripes, much like a candy cane, and his toes were covered by a tiny Santa hat.

“We win one more game, and we’re in the playoffs!” he exulted. “Santa Claus is on his way!”

Santa Claus … or some other entity from the Spirit World. It’s freaky what’s been happening to the Redskins. On the Cowboys’ first play from scrimmage last Sunday, Drew Bledsoe was intercepted by Cornelius Griffin — the first pick of Griffin’s six-year NFL career. On the Giants’ first play yesterday, Eli Manning arched a perfect pass to Plaxico Burress — and Burress dropped it in the end zone. It was as if an occult hand reached out and knocked the ball from his grasp. (The hand certainly didn’t belong to Ryan Clark, the closest defender — though it might once have been attached to Michael Caine in “The Hand.”

Speaking of zombies, where on earth were the Giants’ heads? Burress’ bumbling was just beginning of a looong afternoon. By the time they were through, the New Yorkers had given up two long touchdowns to Moss, had a TD of their own nullified by a penalty, had a chip-shot field goal blocked and had two receivers not looking when the ball was thrown in their direction. They didn’t even resemble the club that had clobbered the Redskins 36-0 earlier this season. They looked like their bodies had been inhabited by the 2004 Giants.

“I just can’t understand that [performance],” Amani Toomer said. “We’re playing for a championship.”

I can. The Giants came to FedEx hoping to finish off the Redskins, but as Vincent Price said in “The Abominable Dr. Phibes,” you can’t kill something that’s already dead. Four weeks ago, the Snydermen were in the early stages of rigor mortis; they were 5-6 and faced the prospect of having to sweep their remaining games to have any shot at the playoffs.

And now?

It … is … alive!

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