The Redskins expect Mark Brunell to start Sunday's
"playoffs or bust" finale at Philadelphia.
The 35-year-old quarterback sprained the medial
collateral ligament in his right knee in Saturday's 35-20 victory over the New York Giants. He was hurt while being sacked by Nick Greisen in the third
quarter with the Redskins clinging to a 21-17 lead. Backup Patrick Ramsey
replaced Brunell and played well.
Brunell was limping noticeably after the game, but he was
already walking significantly better on Monday.
"Heading in the right direction," Brunell said.
"Every day it'll get a little bit better, but I'm certainly not going to
make any predictions. It's too soon. The MRI (showed) what we thought, and
it's a day-to-day thing. It feels better than it did on Saturday."
The Redskins (9-6), who can clinch their first playoff
berth in six years with a victory over the Eagles (6-9), return to practice
Wednesday, but Brunell isn't expected to be on the field.
Redskins director of sports medicine Bubba Tyer said
Brunell's MRI showed "some superficial fibers of the MCL were stretched,
but all of the other ligaments and meniscus look good. ... We have a lot to be
enthused about. I think he has a good chance of being ready for the
Brunell had his right knee reconstructed in 1991 while
playing at the University of Washington, and he tore one ligament and sprained
two others in 1997 when he was with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
"We were obviously concerned after the game, but he
has very little swelling, and our guys feel encouraged," coach Joe Gibbs
Brunell has started 14 consecutive games this season for
the Redskins and has thrown 22 touchdown passes and nine interceptions.
Because of his past history with knee injuries, Brunell
said he knew something was wrong when he was sacked by Greisen.
"It hurt (right away), and I've done it before so I
was familiar with getting hit like that," he said.
Brunell has been held out of practice throughout the
season because of calf, groin and hand injuries, so Gibbs isn't concerned
Brunell's preparation for the Eagles will be compromised if he can't practice.
"Mark's good because he's smart, has been around a
bunch and understands the game plan," Gibbs said. "He can walk
through the game plan, and that allows him to call the audibles and do the
things he needs to do. If I had to guess, he'll take some time off early in
the week, and hopefully we'll be able to work him in later in the week."
--Santana Moss is a difference-maker, something the
Redskins hadn't had at wide receiver in more than a decade. The long touchdown
catches against the Giants weren't as spectacular as the bombs that stunned
Dallas and jump-started the season in Week 2, but they were awesome athletic
plays. Moss's nine TD catches are more than the entire team had last year, and
his 1,400 yards are just 36 shy of Hall of Famer Bobby Mitchell's team record.
"There isn't anybody who has better long-ball
reactions than Santana," coach Joe Gibbs said. "It's just
phenomenal. He turned around (on the 59-yard touchdown) and snatched that
thing from I don't know where."
--Running back Clinton Portis isn't quite the linchpin
that such great Redskins as Larry Brown, John Riggins and Stephen Davis were
during their heydays, but he has been a reliable weapon during the team's
four-game winning streak. In that stretch, Portis has for 461 rushing yards,
four rushing touchdowns and a 17-yard option toss to Chris Cooley for a score
against the Giants. Portis follows Hall of Famers Earl Campbell and Barry
Sanders as the only backs to gain at least 1,300 yards in each of their first
"You can pick your poison," Portis said.
"You can either let Santana (Moss) and (Chris) Cooley kill you, or you
can let me grind it out. Early on, the Giants were focused on taking away the
run, and they were overloading the backside. But after Santana kept making the
plays he was making, there was no way they wanted to leave (cornerback) Will Allen out there by himself anymore. We eventually wore the defense down with
the running game. There's only so long you can guess right on the run."
--Reserve WLB Chris Clemons will miss a couple of weeks
with the sprained knee he suffered against the Giants.
--WR James Thrash returned against the Giants after
missing four games with a pulled hamstring and didn't suffer a health setback.
--CB Carlos Rogers, who missed the past two games with a
torn left biceps, could return for Sunday's game at Philadelphia.
--S Matt Bowen, who missed the past two games with a
bruised leg and knee, could return against the Eagles.
--K John Hall, who was hospitalized last Thursday with an
intestinal virus, returned to make all five extra points and averaged the
8-yard line on his six kickoffs against the Giants.
REPORT CARD VS. GIANTS
PASSING OFFENSE: A-minus -- QB Mark Brunell threw an ugly
interception for a New York touchdown and had an off-target pass turned into a
score by WR Santana Moss in a deceptively high-rated first half. Brunell
exited in the third quarter after spraining his knee when sacked by Nick
Greisen. Patrick Ramsey replaced him and played his first meaningful action
since being benched for Brunell in the first half of Week 1. Like Brunell,
Ramsey was the beneficiary of a wonderful downfield adjustment by Moss for a
72-yard TD. Together, the QBs posted a sterling 127.9 rating. RB Clinton
Portis lofted a 17-yard TD pass to H-back Chris Cooley. Moss continues to
amaze. Cooley set the team season record for catches by a TE/H-back. TE Robert Royal rumbled 13 yards on a flip from Brunell. WR James Thrash was back after
missing four weeks with a pulled hamstring, but like WR Taylor Jacobs, to no
effect. The pass protection by Ts Jon Jansen and Chris Samuels against Giants
sackmeisters Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora was superb.
RUSHING OFFENSE: B-plus -- After running so well the
previous three weeks, Portis found the going tough early before breaking out
in the fourth quarter to set a Redskins record with his eighth 100-yard game
of the season and moving into third on Washington's single-season rushing
list. RB Ladell Betts gave Portis some breathers before taking over toward the
end. The run-blocking got better as the game wore on as the Redskins kept the
ball for 33:13. Ray Brown, 43, performed well in place of injured RG Randy
PASS DEFENSE: B-minus -- RE Phillip Daniels continued his
terrific December with a sack and two passes defensed. LE Renaldo Wynn just
missed a sack. MLB Lemar Marshall beat TE Jeremy Shockey to an interception he
returned 27 yards to set up a TD. WLB Chris Clemons sprained a knee.
Ex-Giants SS Ryan Clark helped his old team go ahead with
a personal-foul penalty and was lucky that Plaxico Burress dropped a TD after
beating him on deep on the first play. CB Shawn Springs defensed three passes
but also gave up a 41-yard interference penalty. FS Sean Taylor had a
team-high eight tackles. The Giants passed for 244 yards but not to much
RUSH DEFENSE: B -- Led by RT Joe Salave'a, the front four
didn't give Tiki Barber much room to run until garbage time. WLB LaVar Arrington had six tackles in his return from a two-game absence with a bruised
thigh. SLB Marcus Washington had a rare quiet game.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- P Derrick Frost had his best day in
weeks. Return man Antonio Brown was mediocre. The usually top-notch coverage
units gave up a 41-yard kickoff return to ex-Redskin Chad Morton to start the
game. K John Hall didn't try a field goal for the second straight week.
COACHING: A-minus -- Joe Gibbs' team was down and out at
5-6, but four weeks later, the Redskins are on the brink of their first
playoff berth in six years. Gibbs stayed steady even after his team fell
behind on Saturday against the Giants and then lost Mark Brunell, its starting
QB of the last 14 games, to a sprained knee. Gregg Williams' aggressive
defense held the Giants' talented offense pretty much in check most of the day
after being blasted for 262 rushing yards in the 36-0 loss at New York on Oct.
30. Danny Smith's special teams units didn't
have one of their better days.