Washington routs Dallas to clinch berth
LANDOVER, Md. — From disarray to dominance, the Washington Redskins will enter the playoffs as the hottest team in the NFC.
And with the hottest quarterback in the conference. And maybe the hottest running back. And with a defense coming off a game in which it allowed exactly 1 yard rushing.
The Redskins reached the postseason Sunday with a 27-6 victory over the archrival Dallas Cowboys, capping an emotional renaissance to a season that appeared lost less than a month ago. Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs, seemingly on the ropes after a four-game losing streak, received warm embraces from players and assistants as the final seconds ticked away.
The Redskins did it by beating a Dallas team that rested anyone who was questionable with an injury because it had clinched home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs the week before. Still, the Cowboys played their healthy starters most of the game and were trailing 20-3 when quarterback Tony Romo was pulled for Brad Johnson with about 61/2; minutes left in the third quarter.
The Redskins (9-7) will travel to Seattle on Saturday for a 1:30 p.m. game, a rematch of a 2005 division playoff won 20-10 by the Seahawks. Washington will be riding a four-game winning streak, the longest currently in the NFC. Its last three victories have been by double digits, a remarkable turnaround for a team that stayed afloat with close, ugly victories before losing four straight, the last coming days after the shooting death of safety Sean Taylor.
The Redskins are 4-0 since Taylor's funeral, and all the victories were engineered by backup quarterback Todd Collins after Jason Campbell dislocated a kneecap in the first half against Chicago on Dec. 6. The 36-year-old Collins went 22-for-31 for 244 yards and one touchdown Sunday and is 67-for-105 for 888 yards with five TDs and no interceptions since relieving Campbell.
Clinton Portis ran for two touchdowns and had 104 yards on 25 carries and 27 yards on four receptions, setting a career high for yards receiving in a season (389). His yards from scrimmage in the four-game winning streak: 122, 126, 124 and 131. Santana Moss caught eight passes for 115 yards and a touchdown.
The game ultimately turned out to be irrelevant — other than to serve as a possible preview of a postseason game two weeks from now. Minnesota lost 22-19 to Denver and New Orleans fell 33-25 to Chicago, giving Washington the two out-of-town results it needed to make the postseason without having to beat Dallas.
The NFC East champion Cowboys (13-3), who will have a bye next week, tried to muster any motivation they could find, but almost none of their goals were realized. They had hoped to win a 14th regular-season game for the first time in franchise history. Jason Witten caught only two passes, falling four short of becoming the second tight end to get 100 in a season.