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Redskins try to win for Taylor, again

Pigskin Pick 'Em

Posted: Thursday, December 06, 2007

Sean Taylor would have been proud to call himself a Redskin.

Before Sunday's game, that is.

Afterward, well, that's an entirely different story.

Lining up for their first defensive snap since Taylor was shot and killed on Tuesday, the Redskins fittingly trotted out just 10 players midway through the first quarter, leaving Taylor's safety position vacant on the right side of the field.

It didn't matter that Buffalo's Fred Jackson ran around the left end for 22 yards and a first down.

In one of the classiest and most honorable moves in the history of professional sports, Washington sent the heralded hitter out the right way.

"We were going to let him ride with us," said assistant coach Gregg Williams, "one more time."

Defensive players and coaches concocted the idea the night before, keeping it secret until the moment arrived. Even Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs wasn't aware of what was taking place.

That wouldn't be the last time, either.

The Redskins turned in a valiant effort on Sunday, only six days removed from the unimaginable tragedy, yet seemed to have Taylor in the forefront of their minds the entire afternoon. And considering what happened, who can blame them?

"You run on so many emotions," said quarterback Jason Campbell. "You're pumped and ready to play and you want to go out there and do it for Sean. I think it weighed on us late in the game."

It appeared to affect them early, too.

Unable to punch the ball into the end zone from the 5-and 3-yard lines on their opening two drives of the game a false start penalty on fourth-and-1 moving them back on the first and back-to-back sacks of Campbell derailing the latter was an early indicator of the difficulties of being unable to return to normalcy.

Washington's offensive line later forgot how to protect Campbell again in the second quarter when he was sacked for a safety, points that would eventually come back to haunt them as they lost 17-16.

The Redskins defense, surrendering just three points until late in the third quarter and never allowing a touchdown, a fitting tribute to Taylor in itself, later forgot how to cover the middle of the field when Bills' quarterback Trent Edwards hit Josh Reed in traffic for a 31-yard gain with under 50 seconds to play.

The worst, however, was yet to come.

In a move already played out this season, almost as unnecessary as it is annoying, Gibbs waited until the very last second to call timeout and ice Bills' kicker Rian Lindell, who sent the pigskin flying through the uprights from 51 yards out before learning the play didn't count.

When Gibbs, in his 16th year as a head coach in the NFL, allowed Lindell to line up again before calling another timeout, it wasn't just futile.

It was actually forbidden.

Docked 15 yards for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, league rules stating you can't call consecutive timeouts as a tactic to freeze the kicker, Gibbs' mind-boggling mistake awarded Lindell a 36-yarder, a piece of cake for a guy who tied the Buffalo franchise record with 17 straight successful attempts, four occurring earlier that day before the winning and, simultaneously, heartbreaking kick.

In retrospect, who knows if Lindell would have made consecutive 51-yarders? Maybe a little wind would have shifted the ball wide left. Or perhaps it would have just sailed right through.

What we do know, though, is Gibbs' error likely sealed the Redskins' fate should they lose tonight at home against the Bears.

"I made a decision there at the end that very likely cost us the game," Gibbs said. "That's on me ... I should have known the rule."

What we don't know is which Washington team will show up against Chicago.

Losers of four in a row and five of their last six, the Redskins are desperate for a win in a game that will all but eliminate the loser from the postseason picture.

"You don't know which side of the meter they're going to be on," said Chicago defensive end Adewale Ogunleye. "I know they want to win badly for their teammate. They want to win badly because they still want to try to salvage their season, too."

Favored by three, Washington is sitting at 5-7, tied with the Bears, Eagles, Saints and Panthers, all just one game behind Minnesota, Detroit and Arizona for the NFC's final wild card berth.

Luckily for the Redskins, Chicago is fresh off a similarly sickening defeat.

Trailing for most of the game, Eli Manning and the New York Giants took a five point edge with 1:33 remaining and held on for the win, dealing the Bears a precarious blow to their playoff lives at Soldier Field.

With Gibbs under fire for his late game gaffe and the Redskins barely off the plane from Florida where they attended Taylor's funeral on Monday, maybe a short week and some good, old-fashioned football is exactly what the doctor ordered.

At least that's probably what Taylor would have prescribed.

REDSKINS, 26-22.

Carolina (plus 10 1/2)

at Jacksonville

It's too bad the Jaguars don't get a shot at the Patriots. JAGUARS, 33-21.

Dallas (minus 10 1/2)

at Detroit

Tony Romo could challenge Tom Brady for most TD passes. COWBOYS, 38-27.

Miami (plus 7) at Buffalo

Sorry Miami. Not yet. BILLS, 27-10.

Cleveland (minus 3 1/2)

at New York Jets

The Jets could easily have been in the Dolphins' shoes. BROWNS, 42-24.

New York Giants (plus 3)

at Philadelphia

Donovan McNabb is back. EAGLES, 31-21.

Oakland (plus 10 1/2)

at Green Bay

Brett Favre returns, too. PACKERS, 31-17.

San Diego (pick)

at Tennessee

Norv Turner finally realized how to use LT. Took him long enough. CHARGERS, 17-14.

St. Louis (plus 7)

at Cincinnati

Perhaps the NFL Network should have aired this game? BENGALS, 34-30.

Tampa Bay (minus 3)

at Houston

Earnest Graham is tied for fifth in league with seven touchdowns. He may have 10 after this game. BUCCANEERS, 24-17.

Arizona (plus 7) at Seattle

Seattle has won four straight. Make that five. SEAHAWKS, 38-28.

Minnesota (minus 8 1/2)

at San Francisco

49ers' defense will make Tarvaris Jackson look like Fran Tarkenton. VIKINGS, 42-12.

Pittsburgh (plus 10 1/2)

at New England

Big Ben isn't going to know what hit him. PATRIOTS, 45-21.

Kansas City (plus 6 1/2)

at Denver

How did Travis Henry win his appeal? Denver doesn't care. BRONCOS, 27-17.

Indianapolis (minus 9 1/2)

at Baltimore

Ravens have lost six straight. Doesn't get any easier. COLTS, 28-21.

Monday

New Orleans (minus 4 1/2)

at Atlanta

Last time the Saints played Atlanta on Monday night, they beat the Falcons, 23-3. And they were up against Michael Vick. I wonder if he'll get to watch? SAINTS, 34-17.

Comments and criticisms may be sent to Clarion sports reporter Matthew Carroll at matthew.carroll@peninsulaclarion.com.

LAST WEEK: 5-11 (spread); 5-11 (straight up)

SEASON: 100-80-11 (spread); 116-76 (straight up)



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