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Memories Of 2005 Follow Redskins Into Monday Night Meeting With Dallas

By ZAC BOYER | zboyer@freelancestar.com | @ZacBoyer

This story appeared on page B1 of Saturday’s Free Lance-Star

Mark Brunell‘s son, Joseph, went to bed that Monday night in 2005 after the third quarter, just as many others across the country had done.

He assumed the Washington Redskins, down 13 points at Dallas with five minutes remaining, would lose that game. They had struggled throughout the 2004 season, finishing with six wins, and because it was just Week 2, the memories of a dismal previous year were still fresh.

That night, Sept. 19, was the first indication things were a little different for the Redskins. Perhaps, even, a little special.

“The next morning, my wife [Stacy] told him we had won,” Brunell said. “That was kind of cool for me.”

Brunell, then the Redskins’ starting quarterback, threw two touchdown passes to Santana Moss in the final 3:46, completing a come-from-behind, 14-13 victory over the Cowboys in the last meeting between the teams on Monday Night Football.

It is a game that still brings back plenty of fond memories for Redskins fans and is among the top moments in the history of the rivalry, let alone among the team’s 14 Monday night battles. The win marked only the second time the Redskins defeated Dallas in the previous 16 games between the two teams, and marked their first win in Texas Stadium since 1995.

“There’s been maybe two or three times in my career that I’ve ever felt more joy at one moment,” said Redskins tight end Chris Cooley. “When we ended that game, I remember it was just an absolute celebration. It went from grief to instant joy and excitement. It was awesome.”

The Redskins return to Texas on Monday under vaguely similar circumstances. Washington was mediocre last year, is currently 2-0 and has the opportunity to make a statement against its biggest rival in front of a national audience.

Who knows where it could lead?

“You don’t get those wins very often, and I think for at least that game, it certainly was a confidence-booster,” said Brunell, now a backup with the New York Jets after leaving Washington following the 2007 season. “It showed that we had a lot of resolve, that we were a team that wasn’t going to quit. I think it set a tone for the remainder of the season, because we did go on to have a pretty solid season that year.”

Much has changed since then, as only three current Redskins — Moss, Cooley and fullback Mike Sellers – played in that game and are still on the team. Cornerback Terence Newman, linebacker DeMarcus Ware and quarterback Tony Romo are among nine current Cowboys who played in 2005 as well.

The Cowboys entered the game thinking they were the ones who would have a special night. They inducted Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin and Emmitt Smith in their “Ring of Honor” and immediately went to work, with Jose Cortez making a 33-yard field goal in the first quarter and adding a 41-yarder with 5:58 remaining. As a sign of how things were going for the Redskins, the two field goals were scored around a 70-yard touchdown pass on a flea flicker from Drew Bledsoe to Terry Glenn in the third quarter.

Then the Redskins turned it around. Brunell found James Thrash for a 20-yard gain on fourth-and-2 from the Washington 46 with 4:18 to play, and after three consecutive incompletions, Brunell hooked up with Moss, then in his first year with Washington, for a 39-yard touchdown grab.

Dallas went 18 yards on five plays over the next minute before Brunell went back to work, throwing a 10-yard pass to running back Clinton Portis in the left flat before hitting Moss mid-stride for a 70-yard touchdown. That was it for the Cowboys, who had two more opportunities in the last 2:28 but could not score.

Coach Joe Gibbs, at the beginning of his second season, was elated by the victory. He was drenched in Gatorade when time expired, and later proclaimed it one of his greatest moments in sports, despite the fact that he had won three Super Bowl rings.

“I know Joe didn’t like the Gatorade bath, but I think at that moment he didn’t care too much,” Cooley said. “In the four years I played with coach Gibbs, I never saw him happier. Not even close. That was the most excited that I’ve ever seen [him].”

Brunell finished 20-for-34 with 291 yards, the two touchdowns and an interception. Moss, who caught a total of five passes for 159 yards in his coming-out party, returned to Redskins Park the next morning to a delivery of two dozen red and yellow roses and a thank-you note left by an anonymous fan.

The Redskins finished 10-6, qualifying for the playoffs and winning their first game against Tampa Bay before losing to Seattle in the divisional round. They returned to the playoffs in 2007, but haven’t been back since.

“The thing I remember about that team in 2005 is we were tough,” said Cooley, who said last week the attitude now in the locker room reminds him of that season. “We were mentally tough. We were physically tough. We beat the [snot] out of people.”

Moss didn’t want to draw those conclusions — or any, for that matter. What matters when the teams play Monday is the preparation during the course of the week, though he does admit to thinking about the game from time to time.

“I mean, every year you do something different, so you can’t sit back there and dwell,” Moss said. “I can’t even allow myself to go into a game and think about something that I’ve done before, because it’s not even about that. It’s about now and doing something to better your team this time around.”

Monday’s matchup may prompt Brunell to recall the 2005 game, or at least remember its top plays. What the team accomplished that season is special to him.

“When I think about my time with the Redskins, that certainly was one of the highlights,” Brunell said. “So yeah, it comes up every now and then.”

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