Detroit? Oh, please. Detroit has no chance here. None.
This is Detroit's all-time record in Washington: 0-19.
The Lions have never won here. The Lions couldn't beat the Christians here.
Yes, they are great in Detroit. In their dome. On turf. They were 6-2 there this season. They beat all three NFC division champions there this season--St. Louis, Tampa Bay and the Redskins. They manhandled the Redskins there, sacking Brad Johnson four times in the fourth quarter. Johnson recalled it as "the worst beating we took all year, a humbling experience." Tre Johnson also remembered the game painfully saying: "I have to concur with my quarterback. It was the manner we lost, the sheer physicality of it." (When my facial expression apparently revealed wonder at how physical it was in Detroit, Tre sought to inform me: "Man, Detroit was beastin'. They were ballin' that game." Clearly, I would do anything to get that quote in the paper. Live long and prosper, Tre.)
The Redskins all talked about how loud it was there, and how they were adversely affected by the noise. It got so loud inside the Silverdome that if Mount Vesuvius had erupted on the 20-yard-line, you couldn't have heard it at midfield. Let me phrase this in terms everyone in Washington will understand: It sometimes gets so loud inside the Silverdome you couldn't hear Joe Theismann.
But Saturday's playoff game isn't there.
And the Lions stink here.
They are bat guano here.
In Washington, the Redskins have beaten Detroit with Bobby Layne and without Bobby Layne, with Alex Karras and without Alex Karras, with Barry Sanders and without Barry Sanders. The Redskins have beaten the Lions here with good teams (1991) and with bad teams (1995). Those misguided people at the game on Sunday who were chanting "We Want Dallas!" had it all wrong. You want Detroit.
"I think it's a good matchup for us," Brad Johnson said.
"It's a very good matchup for us," Brian Mitchell said.
Now, why would they say that? Particularly considering Detroit pummeled the Redskins 33-17 four weeks ago?
Let's look at what has happened to both teams since: The Redskins won three of four games. The Lions lost all four. So they come into Washington with no history of winning here, and no positive momentum. The Lions have to play outdoors, on grass, which will nullify their speed. The crowd noise will work against them. And do you really believe Desmond Howard will return another punt for a touchdown? Or that Gus Frerotte will have another mistake-free game? Here? Where his most vivid memory has to be banging his head into a wall and knocking himself out?
My advice is for the Redskins to enjoy this---because next season's schedule is out, and it is brutal. Seven of the eight teams the Redskins must play outside the NFC East finished this season .500 or better. Tampa Bay, Tennessee, Carolina and Baltimore come here, and Washington has to go to St. Louis, Jacksonville and back to Detroit. If that's what finishing first gets you, who needs it? Good luck to Norv Turner if he has to win even more games next season. It's a good thing for Norv (now without question the greatest Redskins coach of the 21st century) he closed the deal with Daniel Snyder last week, before Bill Parcells resigned. Because if The Danny ever imagined The Tuna was available, he'd be up in Jersey waving a checkbook around so fast your head would spin. Him and at least 25 other owners. I know I'd be there if I owned a team--even if it was the Wizards.
I guess this is as good a time as any to invite the 260,000 Northern Virginian households that get Cox Cable and now can't get the Redskins playoff game over to Wilbon's house to see the game. For years I've had to listen to Wilbon tell me how stupid I am to live in D.C., and how great it was to live in Fairfax because of just such services as "better cable." I'm sure he'll welcome all his former neighbors to his new gated community in Maryland. Oh, wait! I'm told it only affects Fox games, and this is an ABC game. So everybody can see it. Good, then everybody can go to Wilbon's.
I was thinking of Wilbon when Rodney Peete's first pass on Sunday went for a touchdown to Irving Fryar. I was sure if Wilbon had been at the game he'd have insisted Peete should have been in there all along--and if Peete had played instead of Brad Johnson, the Redskins would have won 13 games. In fact, I expect him to demand that Peete start against the Lions. At 33, Peete throwing to Fryar, 36, is the oldest pitcher-to-catcher combination since Charlie Hough threw to Carlton Fisk in Chicago.
I should talk briefly about Sunday's "Don't Tear Your ACL Bowl" against Miami, which was such an exhibition game that Casey Weldon got in--and I was expecting to see Babe Laufenberg. Since both teams' playoff positioning was completely unaffected by the final result, the real risk in the game was injury. The goal was to protect your key players. For example, Brad Johnson played only the first half. Tre Johnson bruised his thigh. Afterward, I asked him if he'd have rued the day had he gotten seriously hurt. "I don't know if I'd have rued the day, but I'd have been mightily irked," Tre said. (Like I'd pass up that quote.)
If the game answered any question it was this: If you give Dan Marino all the time in the world, can he still throw?
A. Not if you want something more than three yards.
Marino can no longer throw deep. On the last play of the first half he wound up and threw it from his own 45-yard line to the Redskins' 10. In his prime Marino would have gotten it to the end zone on his knees.
Both teams now play on. Miami is used to the playoffs. This is their seventh time in since 1990. It, however, is new for the Redskins, who haven't been in the playoffs in seven years. It has them excited.
"It's butter," Tre Johnson said, as only he and Streisand would.
This is Tre's first 10-win season, college or pro. Tre went to that traditional powerhouse Temple, which won 11 games in his four seasons there. I think you can guess which bowl Temple got closest to.
"This is the best year of football in my entire life," Tre said. "I don't want to see it die yet."
It won't against Detroit. Not here.