Solid Finish Has Heyer Starting to Develop a Feel for the Offense

The Redskins dominate from start to finish and close out the rival Dallas Cowboys, 27-6, to earn an unlikely berth in the NFC playoffs with a fourth consecutive victory.
By Jason Reid and Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, December 31, 2007

Many first- or second-year players made major contributions on defense during a late-season playoff push that enabled the Washington Redskins to clinch the NFC's final wild-card berth. Rookie tackle Stephon Heyer, however, is Washington's only inexperienced starter on offense.

Heyer, who went undrafted from the University of Maryland, started his fourth consecutive game at right tackle in yesterday's 27-6 victory over the Dallas Cowboys at FedEx Field. In Week 14, Heyer moved ahead of tackle Todd Wade, who had started nine straight games after Jon Jansen broke his leg in the season-opening victory over the Miami Dolphins. Heyer, who according to teammates has impressed since his role has increased, helped Washington gain 354 total yards against Dallas.

"He's been doing pretty good," right guard Jason Fabini said. "He's a fast learner and he's got some poise out there."

Said Wade: "We've all been in the offense all season, so now it's just about understanding what the man next to you is doing. He understands that."

Heyer, 6 feet 6 and 325 pounds, started every game in the Redskins' season-ending four-game winning streak.

"I feel really good," Heyer said. "I'm happy with my performance and feeling confident in my position as a right tackle. I'm just feeling good every day. I've got more work to do, of course. There's always some small things you've got to change and pick up in your game, but so far so good."

On the opening drive of the game, Dallas defensive end Marcus Spears beat Heyer and sacked quarterback Todd Collins. But overall, Heyer performed well again, said Al Saunders, Washington's associate head coach-offense.

Sealed With a Kiss

Coach Joe Gibbs and assistant Joe Bugel have been through a great deal together, so it wasn't surprising when Bugel planted a celebratory kiss on Gibbs's cheek yesterday.

"Buges did grab me," Gibbs said. "I'm disavowing the kiss, though."

During arguably the most difficult season in Redskins history, Bugel also has coped with the illness of his daughter, Holly, who is battling cancer.

"We've been through a lot together," Gibbs said. "He's going through one of the most difficult things I've ever seen."

Owens Sits

The last time the Redskins faced a situation like this, needing to win their regular season final to get to the playoffs, they were at Philadelphia and Eagles wide receiver Terrell Owens was deactivated. Yesterday, Owens again missed an opportunity to try to end Washington's season, sitting out with a high ankle sprain.

Owens aims to be back by the second round of the playoffs -- when the Redskins would meet Dallas should Washington win at Seattle next weekend -- but he was one of four Dallas starters inactive at FedEx Field. Starting corner Terence Newman, nose tackle Jay Ratliff and center Andre Gurode also did not play, nursing injuries.

Injuries Aren't a Concern

The Redskins, aside from quarterback Jason Campbell, entered the game with no recent injuries. Wide receiver Keenan McCardell has been nursing a calf strain and did not play, but did practice all week and was not listed on the injury report. Otherwise, the inactives were composed entirely of reserve players who don't normally dress for games -- safety Omar Stoutmire, tight end Brian Kozlowski, defensive tackle Ryan Boschetti, tackle Kevin Sampson, defensive end Alex Buzbee and third-quarterback Sam Hollenbach. . . . Tight end Todd Yoder returned after missing one game with a knee injury.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company