They'll be leaving on a jet plane (for Tampa Bay) in a few days, but a day after clinching their first playoff berth in six years, the Redskins were still flying high.
The celebration that began on the sideline after safety Sean Taylor's 39-yard touchdown dash with a Philadelphia fumble that sealed the 31-20 victory over the Eagles continued into the visitors' locker room, where linebackers Marcus Washington and LaVar Arrington gave an impromptu hip-hop performance.
And after an ecstatic trip back to Dulles Airport, the triumphant Redskins were greeted by about 30 hardcore fans when they returned to Redskin Park about 11 p.m.
"To have the talent we've had since I've been here for the last four years, it was like, 'Man we should be in the playoffs, but we're not doing what it takes to win,'" said middle linebacker Lemar Marshall, whose interception in the fourth quarter Sunday set up Clinton Portis' 22-yard touchdown run that put the Redskins ahead to stay. "To finally get to this point ... everybody's geeked for this. They just can't wait."
The Redskins, having vanquished the Seahawks, Bears and Giants, are the only NFC team with a winning record against fellow contenders. And there's no hotter playoff team than the Redskins, who were on the brink of postseason elimination on Nov. 27 after a third straight loss left them in ninth place in the conference with a 5-6 record.
"Every game has been a playoff game for us, the last five, and this is playoff game six for us," Marshall said.
H-back Mike Sellers, one of just four players on the 1999 and the 2005 Redskins, said this playoff trip is more rewarding.
"Back then, I really didn't know what was going on," Sellers said. "Being older now, you definitely appreciate this more."
Joe Gibbs is 13 years older then when he coached his last playoff game, but he hasn't lost the magic that has produced three Super Bowl titles and a sterling 57-18 December/January mark.
"Those trophies in there are not by accident," defensive end Renaldo Wynn said. "The X's and O's have changed, but you (still) have to have the mentality to go out and be physical, hit people and have a unity, a togetherness."
That togetherness was heightened by the veterans' meeting that followed the overtime loss to San Diego on Nov. 27.
"A lot of guys were like, "Man is all this work worth it?" Wynn said. "It was dismal. But then we had that meeting. Coach Gibbs and the defensive coaches said, 'It's up to you guys. You guys are the veterans. You have to lead the way. If you (do), everyone else will follow.'"
They have. The offense which had run for as many as 141 yards in just three of the first 11 games, has averaged 168 yards on the ground since. And the defense, which forced just 11 turnovers in those first 11 games, produced 17 takeaways the last five weeks.
"(Making the playoffs is) a great accomplishment, but I still see the hunger in guys' eyes," Wynn said. "They know we can beat (the other NFC playoff teams). We're peaking at the right time. If we continue do the things we've been doing and continue playing as a total team, then our destiny is in our hands."
Quotes and Notes
--Mike Sellers waltzed into the end zone untouched on a 4-yard catch against the Eagles, giving the H-back eight touchdowns on just 13 touches this year. Only record-setting performers Clinton Portis (11) and Santana Moss (nine) scored more.
"I don't know why they keep leaving me open, but I'm not going to complain," said Sellers, who had five touchdowns on 26 catches in his five previous seasons.
--Defensive tackle Joe Salave'a made one of the key plays of the game -- by doing nothing.
The Redskins trailed 20-17 early in the fourth quarter when Eagles right tackle Jon Runyan head-butted Salave'a, who didn't retaliate. Runyan was penalized 15 yards, forcing the Eagles into consecutive passing situations.
Two plays later, Marshall picked off Mike McMahon's pass and returned it four yards to the Philadelphia 22. Portis scored the go-ahead touchdown on the next play.
"That's the way he plays," Salave'a said of Runyan, his former Tennessee teammate. "That's the way he plays, and I'm sure they're happy to have him because he brings tenacity to the field. But the emotions got the better of him. It was tough (not to fight back), but no person is bigger than the team, and losing my cool at that point wouldn't have helped anybody. I'm glad (fellow defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin) grabbed me when he did because I was close to losing it."
--Sean Taylor's 39-yard touchdown on a fumble return, the first of his two-year career, put the exclamation point on the victory, and he made sure of it by diving into the end zone for the score.
"I played running back in high school so I kind of knew what to do," he said. "I just had to make one guy miss."
--CB Shawn Springs likely won't practice this week after badly aggravating his groin and being forced out of the Philadelphia game in the second quarter. It could be tough for Springs to play at Tampa Bay, especially with a short week ahead.
--CB Carlos Rogers has regained nearly the full range of motion in his ailing left biceps and is expected to play Saturday after missing the three previous games.
--QB Mark Brunell made it through the Eagles game fine on his sprained right knee. He will start, as usual, against the Buccaneers.
--MLB Lemar Marshall sprained a shoulder against the Eagles but is expected to start against the Bucs. Marshall led the Redskins in tackles and interceptions, the first Washington player to do since Andre Collins in 1994.
REPORT CARD VS. EAGLES
PASSING OFFENSE: C-minus -- Playing with a sprained right knee, QB Mark Brunell was a shadow of his usual efficient self, completing just nine of 25 passes. Brunell did toss a 4-yard touchdown to H-back Mike Sellers and set up TDs with completions of 41 and 54 yards, but it was hardly a playoff-worthy performance. WR Santana Moss performed more of his typical magic, getting free for a 54-yard grab to set up the tying TD en route to setting a Redskins season record for receiving yards. WR James Thrash's first catch since Nov. 13 at Tampa was for 41 yards on third-and-11 to set up K John Hall's field goal in the final minute of the first half. WR Taylor Jacobs didn't catch a ball in limited action. H-back Chris Cooley had a rare bad day with as many false starts (two) as catches. H-back Mike Sellers made the most of his chances again, walking into the end zone for his eighth TD on just 13 touches. TE Robert Royal didn't get his hands on a pass. The line only gave up one sack.
RUSHING OFFENSE: A -- RB Clinton Portis was the biggest reason the Redskins won in Philadelphia and the biggest reason they pulled off their rise from the brink of the grave to the playoffs. The new Redskins season rushing leader wasn't spectacular with 112 yards on 27 carries, but his 22-yard scamper was the game-winner. Backup Ladell Betts added 30 yards on five carries. The line blocked well in the running game.
RUSH DEFENSE: B -- LDT Cornelius Griffin was a force inside next to RDT Joe Salave'a, who drew a 15-yard penalty on frustrated Eagles T Jon Runyan. SLB Marcus Washington had five tackles, one fewer than MLB Lemar Marshall, and he forced and recovered a fumble. WLB LaVar Arrington was quieter. WLB Warrick Holdman didn't have a tackle.
PASS DEFENSE: B -- DEs Renaldo Wynn and Phillip Daniels got some pressure but no sacks. Daniels forced the fumble that FS Sean Taylor returned for a TD. Griffin had his first sack since Oct. 23 (he missed all but two snaps of four games in the interim). Marshall had the interception that set up the go-ahead TD. The secondary started without Carlos Rogers, lost fellow CBs Shawn Springs and Ade Jimoh along the way and briefly had SS Ryan Clark sidelined with a sprained knee. CB Walt Harris had a tough day. S Pierson Prioleau had a sack. Reggie Brown, Greg Lewis and L.J. Smith all beat the Redskins with big plays with Brown scoring twice, but Clark and Taylor (team-high 9 tackles) sealed the W, Clark with an interception and Taylor with his fumble return score.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- Hall made a 25-yarder, his first field-goal try in three weeks, but he also booted a kickoff out of bounds. P Derrick Frost is the master of the 20-yard roll. The coverage teams were fine, as always. Betts had a 30-yard kickoff return, far better than any of Antonio Brown's four efforts. Rock Cartwright committed a silly penalty. Sellers set up Washington's first TD by recovering Dexter Wynn's muff.
COACHING: A-minus -- Gibbs isn't 57-18 in December and January by accident. Despite a gimpy QB and a 10-point first half deficit, the Redskins had the fortitude to bounce back and win in Philadelphia, where they were 2-11 since their 1991 Super Bowl triumph. Gregg Williams and the defensive staff kept patching the holes in the secondary as Washington allowed just three points after halftime.