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IT BEGAN promisingly enough. The ‘Skins reached 5-3 by November 4 with a victory over the Jets. They then fell into a four-game losing streak, starting with that awful Philly game.
Things went from merely depressing to genuinely tragic when Safety Sean Taylor, just 24 years old, was shot and killed on November 27 when he confronted would-be burglars in his Florida home. An Onion headline perfectly captured the bizarre randomness of his death: “Report — NFL Had Previously Warned Sean Taylor About Spending Quiet Evenings at Home.”
The Skins sought to win their next one against the Bills in Taylor’s memory. Instead they lost it thanks to Gibbs’s penalty-causing timeout calls.
Then it got worse still. In a December 7 game against the Chicago bears starting quarterback Jason Campbell suffered a season-ending knee injury.
Campbell’s replacement as starter was a 36-year-old benchwarmer named Todd Collins. His previous start in pro football was on December 14, 1997. No, that’s not a typo. To put this in perspective, the last time Campbell had started in a game nobody had ever heard of the name Monica Lewinsky and the greatest terrorist threat the U.S. faced was the Unabomber.
Collins was so old that when he got sacked, you half-expected him to cough up dust rather than blood.
AMAZINGLY, IMPROBABLY, the ‘Skins started to win again. They won four in a row, closing out the season with a 27-6 whupping of the Dallas Cowboys.
Miraculous? Wide receiver Santana Moss thought so. He excitedly pointed out to teammates that the margin of victory over the Cowboys was 21 points.
It was proof, Moss said, that slain teammate Sean Taylor, whose jersey number was 21, was watching over them.
His fellow ‘Skins agreed. That was the explanation for the late-season winning streak that got them into the playoffs — Taylor’s angel was literally watching over them.
The Washington Post reported that players “talked about the strange circumstances that occurred — a gale force wind in New York that blew a punt 20 extra yards, missed opponents field goals in which the wind blew the kicks wildly to one side, passes that seemed to hang in the air an extra second until Redskins could catch them — and said they believed Taylor was at work for them.”
“We don’t think it was by accident we won by 21,” said Coach Joe Gibbs.
Linebacker London Fletcher agreed.
“I don’t believe in coincidences,” he said.
I too got caught up in the excitement. Maybe my cynicism was wrong, I thought. Yes, yes, I said. This time things had truly changed!
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