It was a season of close losses, a dominating defense, few offensive highlights and ultimately a 6-10 record. But the Redskins still came out of Sunday's 21-18 win over the Minnesota Vikings at FedExField with a sense that the team is headed in the right direction.
"I'm very proud of our team," head coach Joe Gibbs said. "If there's one thing you look for on a team, it's guys who have great character for 16 games. We lost games every way you could lose them, but our guys kept on coming back. It's a tribute to them and their character."
Ladell Betts was the primary offensive star from Sunday's win. He logged 118 yards on 26 carries and one touchdown. It was his first start of this season and second career start as the 5-10, 222-pound running back made a bid to be a significant part of the offense next season.
Betts' fourth quarter touchdown, a 1-yard run, gave the Redskins a 21-10 lead that would prove insurmountable. Betts followed a block from fullback Mike Sellers and dove into the left side of the line for the score.
The touchdown was set up by a 46-yard completion from quarterback Patrick Ramsey to wide receiver Taylor Jacobs. The second-year wide receiver broke through coverage past Minnesota defensive backs Willie Offord and Brian Russell and caught the ball in stride. Jacobs was dragged down inches from the goal line, setting up Betts' score.
The Vikings made it close in the game's final seconds with a 36-yard Hail Mary touchdown pass from quarterback Daunte Culpepper to wide receiver Marcus Robinson and a subsequent 2-point conversion. But the score came with two seconds remaining and there was little Minnesota could do as time ran out shortly after their onsides kick.
In the first half, Ramsey guided the Redskins offense to two touchdowns to help build a 14-3 halftime lead. Ramsey finished the game completing 17-of-26 passes for 216 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. His QB rating was 100.8.
"Patrick went from a rough preseason to watching during the season to playing these last eight weeks, and that's not bad," Gibbs said of his quarterback. "He learned a lot, saw mistakes, and sat in the film room. He had a great eight-week learning process."
The Redskins got off to a fast start in Sunday's game, jumping ahead 7-0 on the game's opening drive. Antonio Brown got things rolling on the opening kickoff with a 66-yard return to the Vikings' 32-yard line. If not slowed by Minnesota's kicker Jose Cortez on the left sideline, Brown would have scored on the return.
Ramsey capped the 8-play, 32-yard drive with a 6-yard touchdown pass to rookie H-back Chris Cooley. It was Cooley's sixth touchdown of the season. He was a step in the end zone, just ahead of Vikings' linebacker Chris Clairborne, when he caught Ramsey's sharply thrown pass for the score.
Later in the first quarter, the Redskins were driving downfield again, but Ramsey threw an interception to the Vikings' defensive tackle Kevin Williams. Ramsey had looked to his second option on the play--Betts on a dump-off across the middle of the field--but Williams read the play and stepped in front of the pass for the interception.
Minnesota would go on a 14-play, 67-yard drive, capped by a 23-yard field goal by kicker Morten Andersen. The Vikings had a first-and-goal at the Redskins' 3-yard line, but were turned away as the Redskins' defense stuffed two runs and a pass from Culpepper.
Late in the second quarter, Ramsey guided the offense on an 11-play, 64-yard drive, finding tight end Robert Royal on a 4-yard touchdown pass, to give the Redskins a commanding lead heading into halftime.
Betts began to find plenty of running room on the drive, but it was Ramsey's 15-yard pass to James Thrash and 14-yarder to Laveranues Coles that put the Redskins in scoring position.
On the touchdown pass, Ramsey found Royal open in the right flat and the 6-4, 257-pound tight end bulldozed his way into the end zone for the score.
In the third quarter, Minnesota put together a 5-play, 61-yard touchdown drive to pull the Vikings within four points at the time. Culpepper connected with wide receiver Randy Moss on a 28-yard touchdown pass. Moss ran a post pattern and made a diving catch in front of Sean Taylor, who was covering Moss one-on-one.
Overall, Taylor and the defense put in another solid performance against the Vikings, considered to be among the NFL's elite offenses.
Said assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams: "It was a fun season in respect to this defense being an overachieving defense, but it wasn't satisfying because we didn't win enough. The thing we did well was that we didn't have any superstars. We don't coach superstars, we coach players. We coach teams, and our guys bought into that."