Redskins End on a High Note

The Redskins tried to boast about a strong finish just a few weeks ago. They lacked the evidence to suggest that's what they were doing. Look at their five wins before Sunday: Tampa Bay, Detroit, Chicago, the Giants and San Francisco. All non-playoff teams.

That's why the 21-18 over Minnesota was so big. The Vikings are a bad road team and have lost seven out of 10. But they are headed to the playoffs and they didn't enter Sunday with a guaranteed playoff berth, so they needed to win. Yet the Redskins played smarter, tougher and with more desire than the Vikings.

Considering who wasn't playing -- again -- that's incredible. Had the Redskins lost by double digits, no one would have been surprised. If the coaches accomplished nothing else this season, they most certainly got their players to play hard and not quit. They can build on those attributes.

Offensive hero: Running back Ladell Betts had a strong day, rushing for 118 yards and doing so with more power than starter Clinton Portis shows. Betts moved piles, would pick up extra yards after first contact and even broke off a 27-yard run. In the last eight games, Betts had two runs of 20 yards or more; Portis had none. So much for a home run hitter. It wasn't all on Portis, but for the money he makes, shouldn't you have noticed a difference when he wasn't in there? And who the heck told Joe Gibbs that Betts was nothing more than a third-down back?

Finally: Quarterback Patrick Ramsey had an inconsistent day despite strong numbers. His two turnovers in scoring territory weren't good and he still locks into areas and on receivers in the red zone. Had he not done so, on the first possession he wouldn't have missed a wide-open Robert Royal. But, that said, on the deep pass to Taylor Jacobs, Ramsey looked off the safety and threw back to the receiver. It's been a long time since Ramsey has done that, maybe never.

Defensive stud: Coordinator Gregg Williams. For him to design a defense that throttles the NFL's third-ranked offense with the number of starters missing was darn impressive. He bracketed the receivers and gave up the screen passes and swing throws, making sure not to get beat deep. The safeties did a nice job staying deep. Also, safety Sean Taylor's size was used to help offset Randy Moss' jumping ability. And Ryan Clark is better at stopping precise route-runners, so he was used on Nate Burleson's side. Smart move. Great coaching. It also helped that the line put enough pressure on Daunte Culpepper to bother him. The Redskins often got to him with two defensive backs blitzing from the same edge.

Falling: The defense ended up No. 3 after entering the day No. 2 in the rankings. But so what. Their performance Sunday proved what kind of defense they have.

Big spark: Returner Antonio Brown's 66-yard return to open the game set a wonderful tone. He slipped through a narrow opening quicker than anyone else on the roster could have, including the injured Chad Morton. Brown also had a couple nice punt returns -- not for big yardage, but he usually made one or two guys miss. Makes you wonder what Chad Morton's future is in Washington.

Tough: Corner Shawn Springs got sick during the game and could have sat out the rest of the way. But he returned and played well, again. There's no doubt he was one of the best offseason pickups and established himself as Washington's No. 1 corner.

Good finish: Receiver James Thrash probably isn't more than a No. 3 receiver, but he proved that he can do well in that role. He caught five passes for 81 yards, consistently finding soft spots in zones and getting yards after the catch. Thrash also returned a kickoff 36 yards, showing his versatility.

Bad finish: Receiver Rod Gardner caught only one pass for nine yards. It was a nice catch, but for a No. 2 guy against a bad defense, it was a disappointing finish to a disappointing season.


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