Joe Gibbs usually does not praise specific players during media gatherings, opting to promote the team concept instead. But on Tuesday afternoon, Gibbs made a point to praise quarterback Mark Brunell for a gutsy performance in Monday night's 21-18 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
"We had a bunch of guys give real good effort, and I think I need to say this: One of those guys who made a bunch of great plays was our quarterback," Gibbs said. "I thought Mark played a heroic game. He made tons of plays and I was excited about the way he played. I told him so afterwards.
"From his standpoint, he did miss a lot of practice last week with a hamstring. So for him to move around as much as he did in that game, and play his heart out the way he did, I thought it was a great performance."
Brunell, who was 25-of-43 for 325 yards and two touchdowns, nearly led the Redskins to a dramatic comeback late in the game. He connected with Rod Gardner five times in the fourth quarter, once on a 15-yard touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter that pulled the Redskins to within three points.
With 21 seconds left, the Redskins had an opportunity to get into position to tie the game. Brunell completed a 46-yard pass to Gardner, who was tackled in bounds. Time ran out on the Redskins' comeback effort.
Brunell was sacked five times in the game, including twice by Dallas safety Tony Dixon on a blitz.
"Our quarterback in that game--that was one heck of a game," Gibbs said. "Was it easy? No. Did he get rocked? Yes. That's a real good defense. Many times he was able to bide time and find things that were open. He made a terrific effort."
The Redskins offense compiled 384 total yards and 21 first downs, while controlling the time of possession for more than 35 minutes. But they were unable to translate the yardage and first downs into points, producing just three points in the first half.
One of the key series of the game came late in the first half. The Redskins had a first and goal at the 1-yard line. Brunell and Clinton Portis were stuffed on first and second down, respectively. On third down, Brunell's pass to Chris Cooley in the right flat fell incomplete.
Gibbs said that play was an "opposite version" of the Redskins' touchdown a week earlier in the New York Giants game. It was put in for Patrick Ramsey, a right-handed QB who saw the bulk of work in practice last week. Brunell is left-handed.
Some miscommunication along the offensive line and in pass protection helped stall drives and contributed to the Redskins' paucity of points in the first half, Gibbs said.
"We had some mistakes [along the offensive line], which put us in a bad situation a couple of times," Gibbs said. "We had some calls that were audibles at the line and we went the wrong way. But Dallas's defense is very good. They're going to overload you and come after you on the blitz. That's their style."
Along with Brunell, Gibbs also praised wide receivers Gardner and Laveranues Coles. Gardner hauled in a career-high 10 catches for 167 yards. Coles logged five catches for 42 yards.
"[Gardner] was all over the place, jumping up and catching balls, taking them away from defenders," Gibbs said.
Coles had several dropped passes, but that problem may have been the result of a dislocated finger suffered in the first quarter, Gibbs said.
"I saw it, one of our coaches saw it, and that's it," Gibbs said. "[Laveranues] put his finger back into place, puts the glove back on and never said a word to the trainers. Those are the kind of things that are good to say because it's behind the scenes."