For 55 minutes, Mark Brunell and the Redskins' offense struggled to get into a rhythm against an aggressive Dallas defense. Then, in the game's final five minutes, Brunell helped engineer a dramatic 14-13 comeback win over the Dallas Cowboys at Texas Stadium on Monday Night Football.
For the game, Brunell was 20 of 34 for 291 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He connected on both of his touchdown passes to Santana Moss, the first a 39-yarder and the second a stunning 70-yarder that gave the Redskins the lead.
Brunell, who was also sacked five times in the game, also used his legs to his advantage. On a 3rd-and-27 play in the fourth quarter, Brunell had a key 25-yard scramble. Then he completed a 20-yard pass to James Thrash on 4th-and-2.
Brunell's 39-yard touchdown pass to Moss, which closed the gap to 13-7, also came on fourth down.
Brunell would not need any fourth-down dramatics on the second touchdown drive. On the Redskins' first official offensive play, he found Moss streaking down the middle of the field, a step ahead of his nearest defender. Moss caught the ball in stride and he raced into the end zone for the go-ahead score.
Brunell, named the Redskins' starter last week ahead of Patrick Ramsey, got off to a good start. On the Redskins' first offensive drive, Brunell put together a nice drive into Dallas territory. He completed 2-of-3 passes for 26 yards, including an 18-yard pass to James Thrash that converted a third down.
But on third down at the Cowboys' 27-yard line, Brunell was sacked for a 12-yard loss, pushing the Redskins out of field goal range.
On the Redskins' next drive, Brunell floated a pass on the right sideline to Thrash. It appeared Brunell did not see cornerback Terence Newman playing zone coverage. Newman stepped in front of the pass for an easy interception and returned it to the Redskins' 31-yard line.
The turnover led to the only points of the first half, a 31-yard field goal by Jose Cortez.
Until the late-game heroics, Brunell and the Redskins' offense featured plenty of Clinton Portis runs and a short passing game. When the Redskins were forced into passing situations, the Cowboys brought pressure, leading to the five sacks.
Brunell was making his first start since Nov. 14, 2004, when he opened at quarterback against the Cincinnati Bengals at FedExField and struggled through a quarter and a half of action. He was replaced by Patrick Ramsey for the remainder of the season.
Upon naming Brunell as his starter for Monday night's game at Dallas, Gibbs made the point that Brunell was hampered by a hamstring injury last year. Brunell suffered the injury in the Week 2 game against the New York Giants and it eventually hindered his ability to plant his feet soundly when throwing the ball.
Said Brunell: "This year, I am a different guy and I have been in the system for a year. I think we have more talent this year. We have guys that want to be here and have great attitudes. There has been a lot of change for the better as far as personnel on this team, and so now we can go try and win some games."
Given the focus on the quarterback position in the last week, Brunell was asked if he thought he could bring some stability to the Redskins offense.
"You bring stability by playing the position the way you are supposed to and by winning games," he replied. "That's our job. Every guy who has played the quarterback position the last five or six years here has tried to do that. That is really my focus.
"I want to be successful just for this team. There is a lot of weight on the quarterback position, as there always has been. Every game I'm going to go out and give it everything I've got."
On Monday night, his everything was just enough to lead the Redskins to a dramatic victory.