Patrick Ramsey thrust his right arm into the sky and started sprinting toward the sideline. There to meet him was a hobbling Mark Brunell — helmet off, stocking cap and parka on — with a congratulatory high-five.
That scene — Ramsey playing, Brunell watching — which came when Ramsey threw a 72-yard touchdown pass to Santana Moss in the third quarter of the Washington Redskins’ 35-20 win over the New York Giants yesterday, may repeat itself next Sunday.
The Redskins (9-6) remained in control of their playoff fate with their fourth consecutive victory. They can clinch the NFC East title with a win over Philadelphia and a Giants loss to Oakland, and they can wrap up a wild-card berth with a win over the Eagles or a loss by Dallas and Minnesota.
And Ramsey may have to be the guy who leads them.
Brunell sprained the MCL in his right knee when he was sacked by Giants linebacker Nick Greisen and did not return. Ramsey saw his first non-mop up action since Week1 and was 5-for-7 for 104 yards and a touchdown.
“I just told the guys to rally around me and give me an opportunity to get into a groove,” Ramsey said. “They made such good plays, especially on the touchdown. They played so well around me the entire second half.”
Brunell, who declined to comment, is scheduled for an MRI and was limping gingerly around the Redskins locker room nearly an hour after the game.
“I felt like Mark got hit low on the play,” coach Joe Gibbs said. “We’ll see how that develops over the next couple days. Patrick stepped in, did a heckuva job for us and managed things well.”
The Redskins are on the cusp of their first playoff appearance since the 1999 season and insured their first winning season since that year.
Two months ago, the Giants defeated the Redskins 36-0.
“We took to heart what happened the last time we played them,” center Casey Rabach said.
As offensively inept as the Redskins were in that game (125 total yards), they were that efficient yesterday (380).
Moss, who entered with only one touchdown in his last eight games, tied a career high with three scores — 17, 59 and 72 yards. Running back Clinton Portis added his fourth consecutive 100-yard game with 108 yards on 27 carries and also threw a 17-yard score to Chris Cooley in the third quarter.
“You just can’t let things be that easy,” Giants defensive end Michael Strahan said. “I feel like we’ve [given] up some easy plays defensively.”
The Redskins’ defense kept Giants running back Tiki Barber in check. Barber, who rushed for 206 yards in the teams’ first meeting, had 80 yards on 16 carries, 31 coming on a garbage-time attempt.
“Guys being where they needed to be was the key,” defensive tackle Joe Salave’a said. “We weren’t really disciplined the first go-around against them, but we wanted to minimize Tiki’s opportunities and get around the ball.”
The Giants’ two offensive touchdowns were set up Redskins penalties: a 15-yard unnecessary roughness call on safety Ryan Clark late in the first half and a 41-yard pass interference penalty on cornerback Shawn Springs in the third quarter.
“We made them earn everything aside from those two penalties,” assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams said. “We didn’t play to our standards in the last ballgame against them, and I was brutal to a couple of them for the big plays we gave up. Until the last run today, we pretty much contained him.”
Despite their success against Barber, the Redskins didn’t seal the game until Portis’ 19-yard touchdown run with 12:43 left.
The Redskins trailed for only 2:07 — late in the first quarter after Giants linebacker Chase Blackburn stepped in front of a Brunell pass intended for James Thrash and returned it 31 yards for a touchdown to give New York a 10-7 lead.
Four plays from scrimmage later, the Redskins took the lead for good when Moss adjusted to the floating Brunell pass and ran in for a 59-yard score.
Linebacker Lemar Marshall set up the Redskins’ next touchdown when he intercepted an Eli Manning pass and returned it 27 yards to the Giants 20. Two plays later, Portis threw his second career touchdown pass, which Cooley collected for a 21-10 lead.
“We’d been working on it,” Portis said. “I told him I was going to drop it in his breadbasket, and that’s what I did.”
The Giants made it 21-17 before halftime when Manning’s pass went through Plaxico Burress’ hands but was caught by a diving Amani Toomer.
New York’s momentum swing continued to start the second half. Brunell was injured, and the Giants took the punt and drove to the Redskins 12. But Jay Feely’s 29-yard field goal was blocked by Renaldo Wynn.
Enter Ramsey. The touchdown pass to Moss came on second-and-10 when the receiver readjusted while the ball was in the air.
“I knew Pat had a strong arm, and he threw it up there a little high, and I went up there to get it,” Moss said. “I thought I was going to be hit immediately, but when I came down and saw the guy there waiting for me, I gave him a good, little shrug to the shoulder, and I was off to the races.”
The Redskins’ playoff race now moves north to former division giant Philadelphia. Atlanta’s loss at Tampa Bay eliminated the Falcons from the playoff hunt, leaving Minnesota and Dallas as the Redskins’ main competition.
“It’s been an extremely tough road,” Marshall said. “We went through an emotional roller coaster, and now we’re at a high.”