- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 9, 2005

With all this talk about the New England Patriots being a dynasty and one of the elite teams in NFL history, it is remarkable to consider this: One of their four losses in the past two seasons came at the hands of the Washington Redskins.

Yes, those Washington Redskins, owned by Dan Snyder and coached back then by Steve Spurrier.

On Sept. 28, 2003, those Redskins reduced the mighty Patriots to a quivering mass of zombies in the locker room — the same team, more or less, that won its third Super Bowl in four years Sunday and is being heralded for its excellence and precision.

It is worth remembering because little did anyone know that Sept. 28, 2003, would be the last golden day of Washington Redskins football, the biggest win since the Redskins beat Detroit in the 1999 playoffs. In the aftermath of the Patriots’ 24-21 Super Bowl victory over the Eagles on Sunday, the memories of that win over New England should bring a smile to the face of Redskins fans.

Hey, when there is little to smile about, you take what you can get.

Those were the good ol’ days. The Redskins beat the Jets 16-13 in the opener at FedEx Field and then Atlanta on the road 33-31. The 20-17 win over the Patriots at FedEx Field gave Washington a 3-1 record in what turned out to be the last of two seasons with Spurrier as its coach.

Hard to believe, isn’t it?

Tom Brady found it hard to believe. A look back at the Boston and Washington stories from that game all had Joe Montana’s heir apparent staring in disbelief in the locker room.

“Nearly an hour had passed since Redskins safety Ifeanyi Ohalete swatted away a fourth-down pass to choke off a Patriots’ last-ditch rally, and Tom Brady still sat in front of his locker, staring at the floor as he replayed the event that had transpired over the several hours.”

“Tom Brady sat staring at the blank wall behind his locker.”

“The anguish was plainly visible on the face of the Patriots quarterback as he sat and stared blankly into his empty locker after the game.”

The Eagles couldn’t do this to Tom Brady. Neither could the Colts. But the Spurrier-led Redskins did not just turn Brady into a zombie but also some Patriots into amnesiacs. Take Willie McGinest, who, when asked what he had been thinking when he tried to block a Redskins player from getting a fumble instead of falling on it himself, said, “I don’t remember.”

Some players even began to turn on each other. Larry Centers, who was a fullback for the Patriots, complained after the game Brady failed to find him on the final drive.

“To me, the frustrating part is when I’m standing at the stick and the ball is going over my head,” Centers told reporters.

Even the genius, Bill Belichick, showed a glimpse of weakness when asked about Brady’s options in that drive.

“We had a couple of short receivers,” he told reporters. “It was tight there. The quarterback probably thought he couldn’t get it in. I wouldn’t second guess that one.”

“The quarterback?” Belichick couldn’t even bring himself to say Brady’s name after he had thrown three interceptions.

There was your dynasty.

Of course, the Redskins had no business winning the game. They had taken a 20-3 lead in the third quarter, but overall their performance was vintage Redskins: nine penalties, including three false starts on their second-to-last possession, which only lasted three plays; 12 yards passing by Patrick Ramsey (10-for-22, 147 yards overall) in the second half; a 3-for-11 third-down conversion rate, compared to 7-for-15 for New England; and 253 total yards, 134 less than the Patriots.

Even Spurrier knew their luck: “We were really fortunate to get out with a victory.”

Nobody realized that would be the top of the mountain for Washington. It has been downhill ever since. The Redskins went on to lose their next four games and won just two of their final 10 in 2003. Spurrier quit, Joe Gibbs was resurrected and the Redskins finished 6-10 last season.

“We’re happy to be 3-1,” Spurrier said after the game. “We realize we could be worse. We could be better, but we could be worse.”

Sept. 28, 2003. Glory days.

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