- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 6, 2008

SEATTLE — The terrific tale of Todd Collins ended with a thud yesterday afternoon.

After four superb games in which Collins — after a decade on the sidelines — looked like the closest thing in the NFL to MVP Tom Brady, Washington’s newest folk hero was smacked around much of the day by a relentless Seahawks pass rush.

Collins rebounded to throw two fourth-quarter touchdown passes and give the Redskins the lead. Then, disaster: The Seahawks drove for a touchdown, Collins threw his first interception with the Redskins, and Marcus Trufant returned it 78 yards for a touchdown that sealed Washington’s elimination from the playoffs at Qwest Field for the second time in three years.

The defeat in the first playoff start of Collins’ 13-year career was painful both mentally and physically — he was sacked three times and knocked down several others.

“It’s extremely disappointing for me as well as the team,” Collins said. “We kind of felt like we’ve been on a magical ride for the last month. Most of the guys thought we had a good chance to go forward and we were going to win this game. It wasn’t meant to be. When we scored twice and went up 14-13, everyone figured we were going to win.”

Collins finished 29-for-50 for 266 yards with fourth-quarter touchdown passes to receivers Antwaan Randle El and Santana Moss. He also threw two interceptions, the second of which Jordan Babineaux returned for the touchdown that made the final score a deceptive 35-14.

Collins, who posted a superb 106.4 passer rating in December with five touchdown passes against no interceptions, wound up with a pedestrian 69.2 rating yesterday.

“Todd got hit some today, and he went back out fighting, got us back to a point where we had a chance to win,” coach Joe Gibbs said. “You couldn’t ask much more from Todd’s performance in the five games he was in.”

Collins’ 7-yard touchdown pass to Randle El seven seconds into the fourth quarter finished a drive on which he completed seven of nine passes — to five different targets — for 68 yards. An interception by LaRon Landry gave the Redskins the ball back, and Collins hit Moss in stride for a 30-yard score three plays later. Washington suddenly led 14-13.

“I knew it wasn’t going to be easy,” Collins said. “The noise was a big factor, no question about that. It was hard to even hear in the huddle. Their defense did a really good job of putting pressure on the quarterback. You’d like to think you’re oblivious to it, but it probably speeds you up a little bit. … We hung in. We turned it around at the end of the third quarter and the start of the fourth.”

But then came Trufant’s interception on which Moss lost sight of the ball and didn’t even realize that it was thrown, let alone that he was the intended receiver. Coming just 28 seconds after the Seahawks had regained the lead and with just 5:38 left, it was a huge mistake.

“I was on my back,” Collins said. “I didn’t see where the ball went. I put it up for him to catch. It’s unfortunate when you throw the ball 40, 50 yards downfield and they take it back for a touchdown.”

Now with the wonderful story at an end, the question is whether Collins will be back. A month ago, no one outside of Redskin Park cared. But did playing so well in his first shot in a decade earn him a chance to compete with Campbell next summer or an opportunity to start for a quarterback-needy team like Atlanta, Baltimore or Kansas City?

“Todd certainly has to weigh his options,” Randle El said. “We would love to have him back. To me, he can be a No. 1 in this type of offense.”

Collins said that after so many years of signing to be a backup, he plans to sit down with wife, Andrea, and agent, Brad Blank, and figure out what to make of what could be a last chance to play.

“I really enjoyed this season,” Collins said. “They gave me a chance to play, and I’m grateful for that. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t know how they’re going to feel about me going into next season. I don’t know what the level of interest is going to be around the league. Hopefully, I get an opportunity somewhere.”

Even at 36, Collins deserves the opportunity to show whether his December performance was a flash in the pan or the real thing.

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