- The Washington Times - Friday, September 23, 2005

And so Mark Brunell completes two improbable passes late in the game, and a bust of his likeness is being ordered in Canton, Ohio.

This is the visceral reaction of a city that adds the nine points against the Bears and the 14 points against the Cowboys and comes up with a 11.5 average destined to result in a playoff berth.

The first 56 minutes of the Redskins-Cowboys snooze-fest is the uninvited guest to the party.

The most compelling action up to Brunell’s first touchdown pass was Robin Roberts lurking around Paul Tagliabue and the rows of ex-NFL stars working the telephones of the Hurricane Katrina relief effort.

Bart Starr looked so adept with a telephone that you wondered whether he could come out of retirement to uplift the stifling passing game of the Redskins.

In terms of entertainment value, it was a toss-up most of the way: the shot of the bank of telephones vs. the lackluster proceedings of the Cowboys and Redskins.

Joe Gibbs and Bill Parcells seemed intent on being more conservative than the other. If Gibbs instructed Brunell to throw a one-bounce pass to a receiver, Parcells would respond with a running play up the middle that amounted to 2 yards with a good spot.

Both men have become pathologically obsessed with turnovers at this advanced point in their illustrious coaching careers, which is why the Cowboys have the statue of Drew Bledsoe at quarterback and the Redskins have the one-hop mastery of Brunell at the same position.

Neither quarterback is inclined to throw into double coverage, and each has the presence of mind, whatever that means, to throw the ball out of bounds when nothing is available.

Television analysts routinely employ the “presence-of-mind” observation because they only can employ the “plays-within-himself” compliment so much.

Brunell certainly plays within himself, as opposed to playing with out-of-body conviction.

At least we now understand the coaching fascination with Brunell.

The plan is not to let the quarterback beat the defense and special teams with turnovers, which allows the team to hang around in the hope that Brunell will throw two touchdown passes in the last 3:46 of the game.

This is a solid plan so long as the opposition settles on 13 points and has a confused cornerback by the name of Aaron Glenn entrusted with shadowing Santana Moss.

The Redskins celebrated the outcome with playoff-like enthusiasm, as is the right of a team judged to be a quarterback shy of relevance.

Gibbs received a Gatorade dousing and clutched the victory with all his might after looking like the loneliest man on the planet most of the night. He undoubtedly had to be squirming as the goose egg persisted on the scoreboard, just dreading the line of questioning certain to come.

Yet now the team is 2-0, with a bye week ahead and no quarterback questions in the offing.

Not that Brunell has resolved the quarterback issue.

He merely has put it on hold until the next outing or three, depending on the success of the hang-around plan.

Most who stayed with the game until the Brunell-Moss fireworks — and staying with it required all kinds of fortitude — would have accepted the tiny reward of a field goal for their forbearance.

The question at various points was: Can a team go through a season and not score a touchdown?

It was mostly an eye-glazing, mind-numbing affair that eliminated none of the previous concerns.

Perhaps this winds up being the game that makes the Redskins whole, a team in every sense, not just one overly dependent on the defense.

That is one of the hopeful sentiments in the city following two narrow victories.

The struggle, the temperance, is in deciding on which Brunell: the two-pass Brunell or the Brunell we all have come to groan.

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