Redskins make best of meaningless game

With nothing on line, Washington tops Dolphins, 21-10, to finish at 10-6

January 03, 2000|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

LANDOVER -- The Washington Redskins and Miami Dolphins played the anti-climactic bowl yesterday.

The Redskins got bad news before the game when they learned they had lost a shot at a first-round bye.

The Dolphins got good news when they found out they had qualified for the playoffs.

That left the unfinished business of actually playing the game, and the two coaches, Norv Turner of the Redskins and Jimmy Johnson of the Dolphins, treated it like a preseason game and played their starting quarterbacks only for a half.

For the record, the Redskins finished the season with a 10-6 record by coming away with a 21-10 win over the Dolphins, who started 7-1 and finished 9-7.

Even CBS didn't show much interest in the game. The network didn't show the Redskins fans in Washington the first 10 minutes of the game because it stuck with the Kansas City-Oakland contest until 4: 30 p.m., even though it is supposed to show the whole game in the markets of the teams involved.

It was significant that most of the talk after the game was not about this result or performances, but about next week's playoff games.

The Redskins will play host to the Lions next Saturday and the Dolphins will go to Seattle.

"Now, it's a whole different deal. It's exciting as it gets," said Turner, who finally made the playoffs in his sixth year as a head coach.

It could be argued that neither the Redskins nor the Dolphins are destined to do much in the playoffs. The playoff system is skewed toward the teams that receive first-round byes.

Since the 12-team playoff format started in 1990, the teams that get first-round byes are 31-5 in divisional playoff games. On top of that, Miami hasn't won a road playoff game since its celebrated unbeaten team did it in 1972 in Pittsburgh.

The Redskins do have a good shot at winning next week because they play host to a Detroit team that staggered into the playoffs with four straight losses to finish 8-8. No 8-8 team has ever won a playoff game.

But the Lions' last victory was a 33-17 decision over the Redskins on Dec. 5. That's the kind of year it's been.

The difference was that the game was played in Detroit, where the Redskins had trouble dealing with the crowd noise. Now they'll have the home-field edge, and the Lions will likely be without starting quarterback Charlie Batch, who injured his thumb again yesterday. That means that former Redskin Gus Frerotte, who beat Washington last month, will get his second shot at his former teammates.

"Now everything starts from scratch. We either win or go home, and I want to be part of a winner," said Redskins quarterback Brad Johnson, who passed for 75 yards in the first half to go over the 4,000-yard mark.

Rookie tackle Jon Jansen even talked about going to the Super Bowl.

"Sure, why not?" he said. "It's going to be somebody, why not us? I believe that we match up well with every other team in the NFL when we're playing our best ball. All of the guys are excited and ready to play the next week. We've got a great chance to push on to the Super Bowl."

That's brave talk when you consider the Redskins' victory over Miami was their first over a winning team all year. They only played two other teams with winning records during the season, losing to the Bills and Colts.

On the Dolphins' side, the fact the team qualified for the playoffs meant it wasn't Dan Marino's last game in a Miami uniform.

But all the signs are that the Dolphins don't expect Marino back next year. Owner Wayne Huizenga even flew Marino's family to the game just in case they didn't make the playoffs and it was his last game.

Marino, who completed 11 of 24 passes for 118 yards in the first half and had one tipped pass intercepted, didn't want to address the question of whether the sand is about run out of his hour glass.

"You know I've answered that question, and I'm tired of answering it. You never know when your last game is going to be and I've said that for the past month. Who knows what the future will hold," Marino said.

Nobody knows whether Johnson will be back, either.

"It was frustrating and I know we're a better football team than what we showed, but that's the way it's been for the last few weeks," Johnson said.

It didn't help that the first two Dolphins drives were ended by turnovers -- a fumble by Keith McKenzie and an interception on a tipped pass.

Rodney Peete replaced Johnson at the start of the second half and James Thrash ran 37 yards on a reverse on the first play. On the next play, Peete threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to veteran Irving Fryar.

That was enough to decide the game as Damon Huard produced only one touchdown in relief of Marino in the second half.

Even if it had the feel of a preseason game, the Redskins seemed happy to win it.

"I think 10-6 is a lot better than 9-7," Tre Johnson said.

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