Last season after the death of their All-Pro safety Sean Taylor, the Washington Redskins won four of their last five games to make the playoffs. Even winning their final four regular season games without quarterback Jason Campbell who dislocated his knee.
If you think the Redskins have forgotten last season's run to the playoffs, or the motivation behind it, then you don't know these Washington Redskins
November 25, 2007 Week 12 @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
The Redskins go into Tampa Bay with a 5-5 record looking to gain some momentum as the regular season goes into the home stretch. Washington started out 3-1 but dropped three of their last four games heading into this contest.
The Skins would fall 19-13 as Jason Campbell threw two interceptions, the latter coming in the final five minutes. The Skins were also stopped on a fourth and one from the Tampa 3 yard line. The Skins were out of answers as the season had spun out of control.
Other than pride, the Redskins had little to play for...
In the early morning hours of November 26th. Redskins Pro-Bowl Safety Sean Taylor was shot during a home invasion at his residence in Miami. Taylor 24, who was at home with his girlfriend and their young daughter would succomb to his wounds on November 27th. Taylor did not travel with the team because he was nursing a strained right knee.
The NFL and the Washington Redskins family were in complete shock. Taylor was one of the young stars in the league as well as the emotional leader of the Redskins defense. The NFL was still reeling from the death of Denver Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams as he left a nightclub New Year's Eve. Taylor had issues early on in his career, but by the testament of coaches and teammates the birth of his daughter seemed to change his life.
Less forgiving were some in the media, who portrayed Taylor in death as someone who "had it coming."
The outpouring of love for Taylor continued days after his passing. The most touching tributes came from Taylor's father also teammate and fellow University of Miami alumnus Clinton Portis.
"You wonder how you speak about a man you admired," Portis said. "You wonder how you speak about a man who means so much to you." Portis talked about the personal transformation Taylor had made in his time as an NFL player, saying, "Sean was at peace in his life. He was always smiling in the locker room. He came to work with the right attitude."
December 2, 2007 Week 13 vs. Buffalo Bills: It was an emotion filled day at FedEx Field as the Redskins held a pregame memorial for Taylor. Washington began their first defensive series with 10 players as a tribute to Taylor. Washington would lead for most of the game. As time ticked away Buffalo was setting up to attempt a 51-yard field goal for the win, but not before coach Joe Gibbs called a timeout to try and ice kicker Ryan Lindell. Strangely enough Gibbs would call a second timeout, drawing a 15-yard penalty now turning the 51-yard attempt into a 36-yard chip shot. Lindell would split the uprights giving the Bills a 17-16 victory.
The Skins were now 5-7, barring a miracle they would be on the outside looking in come playoff time.
December 6, 2007 vs. Chicago Bears: The Skins at this point have gone through an emotional wringer, on Sunday they lose a game that they very well should've won and on the following day, they buried their teammate. With the playoffs still in sight they have a Thursday night encounter with the Chicago Bears. This is their third game in 13 days.
Things go from bad to worse in a matter of minutes. In the first quarter Jason Campbell injures his elbow, returns to the game only to dislocate his kneecap two plays later. Todd Collins would come in relief, throwing two touchdowns, Portis and tight end Chris Cooley would enjoy big receiving games. The biggest lift would come from the defense as Shawn Springs would intercept two passes one setting up a score, as the Redskins would roll 24-16.
The playoffs were still in sight, but without Campbell it would be an uphill climb.
December 16, 2007 @ New York Giants: The Redskins return to action after a much needed rest just in time to face division rival N.Y. Giants. Washington lost an earlier meeting to the G-Men 24-17, this time there was much more at stake.
On a windy night at the Meadowlands, both teams struggled in the passing game. It affected the Giants the most as receivers dropped several catchable balls. Todd Collins was successful when he did connect averaging over 20 yards a completion. Clinton Portis rushed for 125 yards and a touchdown while Ledell Betts added another score. Washington would go on to avenge their earlier loss in a 22-10 triumph.
The Skins need help in order to make he playoffs.
December 23, 2007 @ Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings need to win in order to advance to the playoffs, while the Redskins are still on the outside looking in. Todd Collins has his best game as he goes 22/29 for 254 yards and two touchdowns, Clinton Portis scores once again. The Redskins defense holds rookie sensation Adrian Peterson to 27 yards on nine carries. They would also pick of Vikings quarterback Tavaris Jackson twice and force a safety. Minnesota would try to rally, but it Joe Gibbs challenged a call that was overturned in the Redskins favor snuffing out any chance of a Vikings comeback. Skins 32 - Vikings 21.
The hated Cowboys stand between the Redskins and the playoffs.
On a cold and rainy Sunday evening, the Washington Redskins behind two rushing touchdowns by Clinton Portis beat the Dallas Cowboys 21 points, 27-6 to advance to the playoffs.
The number 21 being Sean Taylor's number.
January 5, 2008 @ Seattle Seahawks NFC Wild Card Playoffs
The Redskins were shut out for the first three quarters before Todd Collins connected with Antwaan Randle El on a 7 yard pass play. Santana Moss score on their next series to give the Skins a 14-13 lead with 12:38 left.
It would be the final points they would score.
The Seahawks would score and convert on a two point conversion to take a 7-point lead. The next two Washington drives would end in interceptions being returned for touchdowns, (Marcus Trufant 78 yards and Jordan Babineaux, 57 yards respectively) the costly interceptions were Collins' only two since he took over for Jason Campbell.
In the weeks and months that followed longtime head coach Joe Gibbs would resign for the second time. He was replaced by Seahawks quarterbacks coach Jim Zorn. The offseason gave the team chance to heal physically and emotionally.
The 2008 Washington Redskins opened the season with a 16-7 loss to the New York Giants. New Head coach Jim Zorn didn't seem to have the Redskins ready for the opener.
Since then the team has rebounded to win four straight including convincing victories over Dallas and Philadelphia on the road. Jason Campbell has come all the way back from his injury to establish himself as one of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL.
The memorial patches are tucked away and the tributes have stopped, however, the collision that is when sports meets real life leaves a lasting effect. Ask the 1990 Loyola Marymount Lions, the 1992 Philadelphia Eagles or the 2007 Denver Broncos.
Love conquers all. It conquers more talent on the other side of the ball, it conquers naysayers, it even conquers the slightest doubt of what you believe what you can't achieve.
The 2008 Washington Redskins have embarked on a journey that will hopefully end in the ultimate tribute for their fallen teammate.
Preferably around February 1st.