Redskins linebacker Marcus Washington may have been passed over for the Pro Bowl, but after last Sunday's 35-7 rout of the Cowboys, there's no denying that he's one of the best at his position.
No. 53 was all over the place against Dallas, helping key a fabulous defensive effort that bewildered the Cowboys offense. He twice sacked quarterback Drew Bledsoe, one of which forced a fumble that set up a Redskins touchdown, and intercepted a pass that led to another seven points. He also made four tackles, two solo.
Wherever the ball was, he pursued it like a shark eyeing its prey.
Washington, the king of enthusiasm during games and practice, also raised his emotional meter several levels, at times resembling a wound-up toy. He psyched himself and his teammates up with screams and aerial maneuvers, and often motioned for noise from the 90,000-plus at FedExField. Not that he needed to fire up the already boisterous crowd.
"It was a huge game," Washington said in the post-game locker room. "I was just trying to bring the magic back around here. My enthusiasm spreads like wildfire. This was definitely Redskins football. Guys work so hard. It's just nice to be able to have something to show for it. We feel like we're playing some of our best football."
Redskins defensive tackle Joe Salave'a added: "Marcus has the motor of a 12-year-old on a candy cane. It's something special. It's really a great thing to have on your team because it rubs off on everybody else. I'm glad to be a teammate of his."
H-back Mike Sellers called Washington the "Energizer Bunny."
Now, the 8-6 Redskins must carry their momentum into Saturday's showdown at FedExField against the NFC East-leading 10-4 Giants, who manhandled the Redskins earlier this year by a score of 36-0.
The Giants are riding their own wave of emotion following a 27-17 victory over the tough Kansas City Chiefs, and Saturday's game carries huge playoff implications for both teams.
"We're going to come in this week, work hard and go out and try to do our best, not like last time because I don't think we really played Redskin football," Washington said. "But you've got to take your hat off to them. They played a heck of a football game up there. But they're coming in our house this time, and we're going to have a 12th man. The fans are going to be crazy."
To win, Washington and the Redskins' swarming defense must stop Giants running back Tiki Barber, who had a career game against the Chiefs. He rushed for a Giants-record 220 yards, has a team-record 1,577 on the season and has five straight 100-yard games. He tallied 206 the last time the Giants and Redskins met.
"Tiki's a heck of a running back," Washington said. "He ran well against a pretty good Kansas City defense. But from the snap to the whistle, we're going to have to try to contain him. We're going to have our work cut out for us. We need to bring our 'A' game."
Washington, now in his sixth season and second with the Redskins, earned his first Pro Bowl trip last year. He was named a second alternate to the Pro Bowl this year, meaning he will make it to Hawaii only if there are injuries.
Last week, he was named The Quarterback Club Redskins Player of the Year.
Washington is currently first on the Redskins in sacks (6.5) and second in total tackles (109) behind fellow linebacker Lemar Marshall (117).
The 6-3, 250-pounder is also getting more and more dominant each week. In his first sack against the Cowboys, he came up the middle and dumped Bledsoe for a four-yard loss to the Dallas 15. He immediately sprung to his feet and patted an official standing in front of him on the rear end.
"He was kind of in my way," Washington joked. "He told me I broke his pencil, so I told him I could pick one up on the sideline and give it to him." Dallas subsequently missed a 38-yard field goal.
Late in the half, Washington picked off a pass tipped by Marshall for his first interception of the season. Displaying impressive speed and moves, he returned it 41 yards to the Dallas 38, and two plays later, Chris Cooley caught his third scoring pass of the game for a 28-0 Redskins lead.
On his third pivotal play, Washington stormed into the backfield in the blink of an eye, sacked Bledsoe with help from linebacker Chris Clemons, and knocked the ball loose. The Redskins recovered on the Cowboys' 21, setting up Ladell Betts' one-yard touchdown run for a 35-0 lead.
"The best thing about this game is as a defense, we got a chance to play with a big lead," Washington said. "Normally, we've got to fight to the finish. It was a lot of fun."