- The Washington Times - Monday, January 2, 2006

PHILADELPHIA — A playoff spot was theirs for the taking. All the Washington Redskins had to do was beat the Philadelphia Eagles, losers of seven of nine.

It wouldn’t, as it turned out, be easy: The Redskins clearly were off their game from the start yesterday at the Linc. It was 17-7 Eagles before the game was 24 minutes old. The playoff run, built on consecutive victories over St. Louis, Arizona, Dallas and the New York Giants, looked like it was history.

However, a 41-yard catch by James Thrash set up a field goal just before halftime, and a 54-yard grab by the wondrous Santana Moss set up a touchdown by Clinton Portis that tied the score early in the second half.

And after ex-Redskins kicker David Akers put the Eagles ahead again, Lemar Marshall intercepted a pass and gave Washington the ball on the Philadelphia 22. From there, Portis needed just one play to run to the end zone and take the Redskins into postseason for the first time in six seasons.

Now, it’s back to Tampa, a place of not-so-fond memories for the Redskins: It is where the Redskins lost a wild 36-35 game on Nov. 13; their last playoff game, 14-13, on Jan. 15, 2000; and Super Bowl XVIII on Jan. 22, 1984.

Q: How sweet it is! After being out of the playoffs for so long, it’s even more satisfying than if the Redskins went every year, isn’t it?

A: Your heroes sure made it a lot more dramatic than it should have been, but in the end, they got the job done. Joe Gibbs is a Hall of Fame coach in part because he’s the king of December and January: He has a 57-18 record in those months, when the games matter most.

Q: So where can I party with the Redskins in Tampa? Banana Joe’s?

A: Fat chance, pal. That place is probably even off limits to the cheerleaders after the escapades there by the Panthers ladies in November. Especially during a short week, Gibbs will make sure his players are snugly tucked in their beds dreaming of TDs and sacks before midnight Friday.

Q: We all look pretty bad for questioning Clinton Portis’ ability to function in Gibbs’ offense, don’t we?

A: Yes, we do. Portis carried the Redskins during the five-game winning streak that lifted them from a 5-6 also-ran to the playoffs, averaging 115 yards on 26 carries and scoring six touchdowns.

Give C.P./Southeast Jerome his props for surpassing Stephen Davis, Terry Allen, John Riggins and Larry Brown as the Redskins’ leading rusher in a season.

Q: Portis and Ryan Clark both returned quickly from big hits yesterday, but it looked like injuries would doom the Redskins with the way Mark Brunell and Shawn Springs were playing, didn’t it?

A: Brunell didn’t play well when he was hurt last year, and he didn’t play well on his sprained right knee yesterday. He looked like the 2004 disaster, not the solid quarterback of 2005.

Springs’ ailing groin played a big role in the costly pass interference penalty he drew on third-and-21 and in his not getting over to cover Reggie Brown on the Eagles’ second touchdown. Springs was unable to return for the second half, and his status for Tampa Bay is uncertain.

Q: They really could have used Carlos Rogers to cover Brown, huh?

A: Yeah. Walt Harris couldn’t stay with the speedy rookie either. With Rogers and Springs out, the Redskins were left with Harris, special teamer Ade Jimoh and Christian Morton (just promoted from the practice squad) at corner. That’s scary in preseason, let alone in a win-or-go-home game.

Then Jimoh was carted off the field because of an irregular heartbeat at the end of the third quarter, leaving the Redskins thinner at corner than Calista Flockhart. But they survived, giving up just three points after halftime.

Q: Speaking of thin: Moss is a little guy, but he plays as big as Tre Johnson, doesn’t he?

A: Like Portis, his U. of Miami teammate, Moss has had a career year. Moss broke Hall of Famer Bobby Mitchell’s team record for receiving yards — albeit in two more games. And like Mitchell, Moss has come up big with no decent second wideout.

Q: Chris Cooley has been great all season, but how do you explain his two false starts in the first half?

A: Nerves in the biggest game in the kid’s life, I guess.

Q: Where was my man LaVar?

A: Arrington started again but was barely a factor, as has been the case almost all season. But he and Chris Samuels are finally going to the playoffs after five years in the wilderness.

Q: So, what happens in Tampa?

A: If Brunell isn’t back to normal and neither Springs nor Rogers plays, the Redskins will really be up against it. But they do have the revenge factor and plenty of momentum. I wouldn’t bet either way just yet.

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