Redskin linebacker Mike Curtis, who caused the fumble and Buffalo running back Jim Braxton who lost it, agreed completely over the most important aspect of Washington's biggest defensive play today.
Braxton never saw Curtis before the Washington linebacker stripped Joe Ferguson's pass from Braxton's grasp at the Redskin 10-yard line early in the fourth quarter. Brad Dusek recovered for Washington at the three.
The Redskins were leading 7-0 at the time and the Bills never reached Redskin territory again until the final 90 seconds. By that time Mark Moseley had added a field goal and given the Redskins 10-0 insurance.
There was good reason Braxton should not have expected to run into Curtis after he eluded Jake Scott and Harold McLinton and headed toward the goal line for the tying touchdown.
Curtis' responsibility in the Redskin pass defense was on the other Buffalo running back. Because the other back remained in the backfield to block, Curtis decided to pursue the play.
"I was turning to the goal line," said Braxton. "Whoever hit me hit the ball. I never saw him. I left the ball exposed."
Curtis said he was going for the ball all the way. He stuck a hand over Braxton's shoulder and got a part of the ball.
"Yes, I was going for the ball," Curtis said. "But it was not a gamble. I was in a position I could make the tackle and go for the ball, too. I came down across his arms, so if I missed the ball, I could still tackle him. He didn't see me coming."
Middle linebacker Harold McLinton was one of the happiest Redskins about the outcome of the play.
"Braxton was my responsibility," he said. "But I was more concerned about (tight end Rueben) Gant. He released outside and I just about ignored Braxton and got there a little too late.
"I made the mistake of hitting him high and he decked the heck out of me. I think I got a hip pointer on it. Just say Curtis made a heck of a play to get to the ball."
Facing second and 10 at the Redskin 27, Ferguson thought he had made a heck of a play on a day strong, swirling winds inhibited long passes and resulted in his running backs catching nine passes, including six by Braxton.
"I saw Braxton and Scott standing there," Ferguson said. "Jim turned his back to Scott, and I threw away from Scott. There was no way he could have gotten to the ball. I never saw Curtis come into the play."
Ferguson, who completed 17 of 42 passes (another half dozen were dropped), spent much of his postgame time defending beleaguered coach Jim Ringo, who apparently coached his Rich Stadium farewell today and seems sure to be fired after the 2-10 Bills finish the season in two weeks.
"The defense did a heck of a job shutting them off," Ferguson said. "A guy jumps on your back and you (Braxton) fumble. That's not the coach's fault on the sidelines. And the interceptions, too. The coach has no control of how I throw the ball."
Late in his career with the Baltimore Colts, Curtis played on a 2-12 team. And he said he could understand how the Bills feel.
"They've got good material," he said, "but they're not confident of their coaches."
The Redskins hold onto their play-off hopes to be the wild-card team and noted that the loss by St. Louis to the Giants yesterday changed nothing. They still have to beat the Cardinals on Saturday in St. Louis.
"We know what we have to do," said defensive end Karl Lorch, credited with two sacks, two solo tackles and two assists in his first start in place of the injured Dennis Johnson at right end."Now we have to go out and do it."
"This season is a very funny season, a very strange season," said McLinton.
The Cardinal tailspin does not surprise McLinton.
"I'm not trying to say anything derogatory against St. Louis," he started."But every year the second half of the season they have problems, because they've got a lot of racehorses and the ball is cold and freezing . . . It's going to be very interesting."