MINNEAPOLIS (AP)—Be it insult, injury or even the death of one of their own, the Washington Redskins have faced just about every hardship imaginable this season.
“Once we got our angel up situated in heaven, it gave us all the strength in the world,” Portis said. “It let guys go out and play and have fun.”
Sean sure would have been proud on this night.
Playing the kind of hard-nosed, harder-hitting defense that fallen teammate Sean Taylor was famous for, the Redskins shut down Adrian Peterson and set up two early touchdowns with interceptions to take control of their playoff fate with their third win in a row.
Todd Collins was 22-for-29 for 254 yards and two touchdowns and Portis had 124 total yards, threw a TD pass and ran for another score for the Redskins (8-7), who can clinch the final NFC playoff spot with a win over Dallas next week.
“Sean’s definitely looking down on this team,” offensive tackle Chris Samuels said.
Peterson had nowhere to go all night, gaining just 27 yards on nine carries. Tarvaris Jackson’s rebound from a disastrous start came too little, too late for the Vikings (8-7), who could have clinched a playoff berth with a win.
With homefield advantage already locked up, the Cowboys could rest many of their key players, and a Redskins playoff berth would give Webster a new definition for resilience.
Taylor, the prototype free safety for the new millennium and a revered figure in the Washington locker room, died on Nov. 27 after being shot by burglars at his Florida home.
His death rocked the organization from top to bottom, and the Skins suffered a crushing last-second loss to Buffalo days later—their fourth in a row—to fall to 5-7.
Washington also lost a laundry list of starters to injury this season.
“You figure all that would take the life out of most teams,” Redskins coach Joe Gibbs said. “I don’t know if you can put it into words. It’s been a real long journey.”
The next stop on the journey is at home against the archrival Cowboys, where the Redskins hope to continue to ride an unrelenting defense and the steady play of Collins right into the postseason.
“The stage is set,” cornerback Fred Smoot said. “We just have to go win that game.”
After Jackson took a step back in his development for the second straight week, the Vikings need help. They need to win at Denver next week and have the Redskins lose to Dallas to get in.
Jackson was poised and efficient in four straight victories that helped Minnesota climb out of a 3-6 hole. But after throwing three interceptions and fumbling a handoff in last week’s victory over the Bears, Jackson threw two more picks in the first half against Washington.
This time, his worn out defense couldn’t save him, and the Vikings trailed 25-0 before he settled down.
He threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Jim Kleinsasser in the third quarter and scored on a 6-yard run with just over 10 minutes to go in the game that cut the lead to 25-14.
The Vikings appeared to have new life when Collins fumbled a hurry-up snap and Kevin Williams recovered near midfield. But Joe Gibbs challenged the play, and the Redskins retained possession when replays showed the Vikings had 12 men on the field.
Childress was livid about the call. Because Washington made a last-second substitution before the snap, he contended that the rule—one of the league’s points of emphasis this season—is supposed to allow the defense time to match the substitution.
“I just want to see it even-handed,” Childress said. “That’s all I want to see. The video’s going to show it, and it’s irritating as hell.”
Jackson added a 1-yard TD run with 1:58 to play, but it wasn’t enough to overcome a first half that couldn’t have gone much worse.
His first pass sailed over Robert Ferguson’s head and into the waiting arms of Smoot, who returned the interception 47 yards to the Vikings 8.
After the free kick, Collins threw an easy 33-yard touchdown pass to Chris Cooley for a 9-0 lead.
Portis capped the dominant first half with a 15-yard touchdown pass to Antwaan Randle-El that gave Washington a 22-0 lead at halftime.
With Peterson facing eight- and nine-man fronts on nearly every down, Jackson couldn’t win it with his arm. He finished 25-of-41 for 220 yards.
“I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen a seven-man front,” Peterson said. “Coming into the game, you know that, and you’ve just got to fight for yards. Eventually, something will open up. But we’ve all got to give credit to the Redskins. They came in and fought hard.”
Just like Sean would have done.
“We came here and nobody believed we’d win but us,” Smoot crowed. “That’s how we’ve been all year. We’re just gonna ride this Sean Taylor thing all the way to the end forever.”
A scary moment happened in the second half when Sellers went down while covering a kick. He was trying to break the wedge and crumpled to the turf after the collision and was motionless. Players on both sides were kneeling in prayer and a cart immediately went on to the field. But Sellers surprisingly got up and jogged off the field. … The Vikings loss means the Saints have not been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. … The Redskins rushed for 106 yards against the league’s No. 1 ranked rush defense. … Jackson led the Vikings with 44 yards rushing.
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