On Sunday, Redskins Move Forward -- and Back
Sean Taylor's face appeared on the video scoreboard before the game, an image that invoked cheers, tears and mostly a gripping reminder of what tragically happened to a family and a franchise a year ago.
Across FedEx Field, the New York Giants were coping with a less serious setback to their roster, the accidental shooting of star wide receiver Plaxico Burress in the leg, by himself, in a Manhattan nightclub on Friday night.
This slate-gray, wet afternoon in Landover was not about superiority in the NFC East and perhaps beyond. Most of us already knew how much more efficient and better the Giants are than the Redskins; 23-7 merely confirmed it.
For two franchises dealing with very different losses, yesterday was about moving forward -- about dealing with the realities of a violent profession that seems to grow increasingly dangerous once the players leave the field of play.
On an afternoon when the home team best tried to honor the memory of Taylor a year after he was shot and killed in his own home, yesterday was also about surviving without stars in the only major U.S. professional sports league -- the no-guaranteed-contract NFL -- that does not seem to need them to move product and television ratings.
Where the Giants have become a microcosm of the league, where people will cheer for whoever wears the jersey as long as he performs and the team wins.
Where Tiki Barber can retire in 2007 and three youngsters nicknamed Earth, Wind and Fire now run wild in the rain.
Where the player who made the greatest catch in Super Bowl history, David Tyree, never plays a down this season. Where a petulant, greedy Burress sadly sabotages his own future with the team in a late-night freak accident involving his own handgun, and it still doesn't matter. Some quick wideout named Domenik Hixon steps in, catches five passes from Eli Manning for 71 yards and on the machine rolls.
Where their best defensive lineman, Michael Strahan, retires, and their next best lineman, Osi Umenyiora, goes down to injury, and a defense still manages to stifle the run and occasionally makes quarterbacks run for cover.
The Giants did not lose a teammate to tragedy, but they have lost more than their fair share of talent. Even yesterday, running back Ahmad Bradshaw was banged up and out, and fellow backs Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward managed to combine for 176 rushing and receiving yards.
"Mostly, they have a good corps of leaders, starting with Eli, and they don't get fractured," said Barber, who infamously said Manning was not a leader a year ago. (Tiki said he called Manning right after their Super Bowl victory over the Patriots to let him know how much his feelings had changed.)
"They also have all these young players that contribute right away," Barber added. "There's always another young guy that just wants a chance and then he steps in and performs."