By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 2, 2006
Washington Redskins quarterback Mark Brunell tried to play down the emotions he felt facing his former team, the Jacksonville Jaguars, but he did admit it was weird looking across the huddle and seeing a team wearing those familiar teal and black uniforms he donned for nine seasons.
Unfortunately for Brunell, on his first throw of the game yesterday, he appeared to mistake Jaguars cornerback Rashean Mathis for former Jaguars great Jimmy Smith, tossing an ill-advised pass under pressure and off his back foot. He said his intention was to hit wide receiver Santana Moss, but the ball fell a good 10 yards short of the intended target.
"I would've like to have had that one back," Brunell said after throwing his second interception of the season.
Brunell didn't dwell on it long. It was just another of the 4,452 passes he's thrown in his 12-plus seasons in the NFL. "Pick? What pick?" Redskins wide receiver Brandon Lloyd said. "He didn't think about that. That's the thing about Mark. Day in day out. No matter what's going on out there on the field, he's our leader. That's how he plays."
The rest of the afternoon, Brunell had no trouble connecting with his receivers -- especially Moss, as the two hooked up for three touchdowns, including a game-winning 68-yard strike to give the Redskins a 36-30 victory.
"To win it like that. A walk-off touchdown. It was pretty exciting," Brunell said. "I'll remember this one for a long time. This will probably make the top five list right here."
But not necessarily because the win came against the same team that brushed him aside to make room for a new young gun -- his counterpart yesterday, Byron Leftwich. Asked if the victory had any special meaning, Brunell said: "Maybe a little bit. Not a whole lot. After tonight. We'll have a good time, but tomorrow, we'll have to worry about the Giants. That's how it is in this business."
Brunell followed his performance from last week -- when he connected on his first two 22 passes against the Houston Texans -- with arguably a better overall game (against a much better defense) as he was 18 for 30 for 329 yards. So no, the elbow wasn't a problem. Brunell's lacerated elbow against Houston forced him to miss two days of practice last week, but Moss said he noticed Brunell's passes had more zip on Friday.
"I didn't practice Wednesday or Thursday. Fresh as could be," Brunell said with a laugh. "I'll try to talk Coach [Joe] Gibbs into doing that every week. I don't think he's going to go for it."
Brunell quickly got over his early interception on the Redskins' next possession. He kept it simple, throwing a four-yard pass to Moss, who zigzagged through the middle of the defense and spun around the final defender for a 55-yard touchdown and a 7-3 lead. Brunell found Moss again in the fourth quarter to the put the Redskins ahead 27-17.
"He's a veteran quarterback. He knows how to keep it going," Redskins guard Randy Thomas said. "Some younger guys might've gotten rattled."
After the Jaguars tied the game at 27, Brunell orchestrated a 31-yard scoring drive that ended with a John Hall field goal only to watch the Jaguars come back to tie with six seconds remaining.
Then in overtime, Brunell scrambled out of the pocket and directed tight end Chris Cooley down the field and delivered a strike. Cooley kept his feet inbounds for an apparent 19-yard reception -- except Cooley had stepped out of bounds before the catch, negating the first down. No problem. Brunell simply wound up and hit Moss on his next throw, becoming a spectator for another Moss thrill ride.
"It was a fun day," Brunell said. "Pretty exciting to be a Redskin today."