Packers fall, so Redskins win for losing Defending champs limp into playoffs, happy for reprieve

December 28, 1992|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Staff Writer

Battered and beaten, but not bowed, the Washingto Redskins were dragged into the playoffs yesterday by the Minnesota Vikings.

Even though they suffered an embarrassing, 21-20 loss to the Los Angeles Raiders Saturday to finish the regular season at 9-7, the defending Super Bowl champions qualified for the playoffs when Minnesota routed the Green Bay Packers, 27-7, yesterday.

The Redskins, who'll play the Vikings at the Metrodome Saturday, didn't care that they made it in by the backdoor while watching the game on television.

"We've got another shot," said safety Danny Copeland. "That's all we could ask for out of this thing."

"It's a tremendous feeling," said defensive lineman Jason Buck. "It's an exciting time for us. It'll be fun to see what we can do."

Coach Joe Gibbs, who went to Redskin Park to start working on his game plan last night, said: "I'm fired up about getting in, because that's what you start out working for."

Cornerback Darrell Green said he didn't get excited before the Green Bay-Minnesota game because he didn't want to be disappointed.

"I didn't want to set myself up for something negative. I wasn't going to put myself in that position," Green said. "But it's definitely a high now. This is a new season. This is our opening game. Maybe we can start over. Maybe we'll hit a stride now."

But the Redskins have shown no signs of solving the problems that have bothered them all year.

Quarterback Mark Rypien still is failing to make the big play. Against the Raiders, he missed wide-open Gary Clark in the end zone on third down in the fourth quarter, a play that helped cost the Redskins the game.

The defense still has problems holding a lead at the end. Vince Evans, 37, looked like the second coming of Joe Montana after replacing injured Jay Schroeder. Evans completed 15 of 22 passes for 214 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner to Tim Brown with 13 seconds left.

Then there's the injury situation. The team's sick bay hasn't been empty all year.

Green left the locker room on crutches Saturday night and went to the hospital for treatment on his bruised heel. He was resting at home in bed yesterday.

Green, who broke his forearm in the second game, said of the heel injury he first suffered two weeks ago: "It got worse as the game went on, and it just exploded after the game."

He's questionable for Saturday's playoff game, along with wide receiver Ricky Sanders, who missed the Raiders game with a sprained ankle.

Wide receiver Desmond Howard, who replaced Sanders, was knocked out with a separated shoulder after his first reception against the Raiders. Safety David Gulledge suffered a dislocated kneecap late in the game, and will join Howard on the sidelines for the Vikings game.

Running back Earnest Byner sprained his back in the first half and departed with 35 yards rushing and 998 for the season -- 2 shy of his goal of becoming the first Redskin to gain 1,000 yards for three straight years.

Byner hopes to play along with running back Ricky Ervins (sprained ankle), linebacker Andre Collins (ribs) and wide receiver Art Monk (back).

With Howard out, Sanders questionable and Monk ailing, the Redskins passing game is shakier than ever. Carl Harry, who was activated from the practice squad last week, became the third wide receiver once Howard joined Sanders on the sidelines.

The Redskins are allowed to activate one player from injured reserve for each playoff game, so wide receiver Stephen Hobbs may be brought back this week if cornerback Martin Mayhew isn't needed more because of Green's heel injury.

These injuries are just the ones that made the injury report. There are players who didn't make it, such as offensive guard Mark Schlereth and defensive lineman Charles Mann, who'll need knee surgery after the season, and cornerback A. J. Johnson, who's back from knee surgery. Buck is playing with a turf toe that needs an injection of a painkiller for each game.

"I'm concerned about our injuries," Gibbs said. "We have a lot of guys hurt."

All of this helps explain why the Vikings not only did the Redskins a favor by beating the Packers, but also they felt they did themselves a favor. They apparently wanted to play the Redskins in the playoffs.

During the CBS telecast of the Packers-Vikings game, analyst Dan Fouts said: "They were not too impressed with the way Washington played [against the Raiders] and wouldn't mind seeing them next week."

Green said: "I don't blame them. We have not burned the league up. We never hit a stride from the first game."

But Green and the other players haven't lost confidence.

"We think we can win," Green said. "We certainly don't think we can't do it."

Copeland said: "I guess they have the same attitude they had toward us earlier in the season. Maybe they'll get the same result."

The Redskins went to Minnesota on Oct. 25, when they were missing Green and Jim Lachey, and escaped with a 15-13 victory.

"As far as injuries are concerned, it's almost exactly the same situation," Copeland said.

For their part, the Redskins don't mind playing the Vikings, either. The alternative was going to New Orleans, where they lost, 20-3, earlier this year.

That's why Buck said it didn't make any difference that the team lost its past two games.

"If we were 11-5, we'd have to go to New Orleans," he said. "If anything, we'll go in a lot hungrier than if we were coming off five straight wins. A loss like that [to the Raiders] may be like a big wake-up call," he said.

The Redskins will find out Saturday if they heard the call.

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