The weather was dreary. The stands were emptying rapidly. There was practically nothing at stake. But the Washington Redskins once more refused to quit, finishing their disappointing season on a positive note by rallying with two second-half touchdowns to beat the Arizona Cardinals, 20-17, yesterday at FedEx Field.
Tailback Stephen Davis rushed for 148 yards -- giving him a single-season team rushing record with 1,432 yards -- on a career-high 38 carries as the Redskins, for a second straight year, secured a .500 season at 8-8 with a closing triumph at home over Arizona. They finished in second place in the NFC East.
Free agent David Boston agreed to a seven-year contract with San Diego.
(Post File Photo)
"We didn't pack it in for the same reason we didn't pack it in when we were 0-5: This team has a lot of heart," Redskins guard Dave Szott said. "I had a lot of faith we would come back and play a good football game."
The game was played in a driving rain, with temperatures in the thirties. The announced crowd of 61,721 had dwindled to perhaps one-third of that number by the second half. The Cardinals (7-9) got a first-quarter touchdown on safety Adrian Wilson's 61-yard interception return and a second-quarter touchdown on running back Thomas Jones's four-yard run and led 17-6 at halftime.
Redskins Coach Marty Schottenheimer gave what his players called an emotional halftime speech, and the Redskins hung tough for their second straight win since being eliminated from playoff contention -- and eighth in 11 games since their 0-5 start.
"All of us that are in that locker room, players and coaches alike, have the same sense that, though not a championship team, we are truly a team," Schottenheimer said. "It's nice to be part of that. . . . There's no group that I've ever been associated with that had more heart than this group."
Of Schottenheimer's halftime address, Szott said: "Marty got after it a little bit. He was emotional. He was like, 'Let's not let this get away from us. We're going to have opportunities, and let's take advantage of them.' "
The Redskins got a five-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Tony Banks to tight end Walter Rasby late in the third quarter. They failed on a two-point conversion but cashed in after linebacker Antonio Pierce grabbed a fourth-quarter interception on a deflected pass at the Arizona 23.
Davis scored on a two-yard touchdown run with just over three minutes to play, then added a two-point conversion run. Backup quarterback Kent Graham led that go-ahead scoring drive after Banks hurt his left knee on a hit by Arizona defensive tackle Marcus Bell. Graham, who also helped the Redskins to a come-from-behind triumph in Denver in November, threw only one pass yesterday. But it was a key one -- a left-handed flip to running back Ki-Jana Carter just before being tackled, producing an eight-yard gain on a third-and-seven play.
The Cardinals had a final chance when, with just under two minutes to play, quarterback Jake Plummer threw deep for Pro Bowl wide receiver David Boston on a fourth-down play. Redskins safety Keith Lyle collided with Boston and the Cardinals screamed for a pass interference penalty, but none was called. The Redskins took possession and ran out the clock.
"I've had a lot of pass interference calls this year," Boston said, "and that was definitely pass interference. We both went up for the ball, and he just shoved me."
But the Redskins got a break, and now enter an offseason of uncertainty in which they first must determine Schottenheimer's status, then settle on a quarterback and deal with a roster that includes 17 players eligible for unrestricted free agency.
"This win was a positive," veteran cornerback Darrell Green said. "The season as a whole was negative because we didn't reach our goals."