At FedExField, The 12th Man Was In Action
September 12, 2005
On the verge of the 2004 season-opener, LaVar Arrington made a passionate plea to Redskins fans. "They make all the difference for us," said Arrington. "They have to realize how important they are."
On Sunday at FedExField, such notions were evident. The Bears and the Redskins were hooked up in a game that could have gone either way, really.
With the outcome in the balance, Redskins fans produced a level of noise that forced three straight Chicago false starts. That stretch basically decided the game in the Redskins' favor 9-7.
In truth, the Redskins have not had such a home field edge since back in the 1999 playoffs. Who can forget how charged up FedExField was on Jan. 8, 2000, when Washington beat up on the Detroit Lions 27-13 in a wild card matchup. FedExField was so revved up that day that the Lions didn't really have much of a chance.
Something of the same emotional pitch arose Sunday.
"It was the 12th man in action," said wide receiver Santana Moss, one of the Redskins' newcomers. "I'm just blessed to be a part of it. It was great. We're trying to get back to a winning tradition. These people were just great." On a day kicked off by Jessica Simpson, Nick Lachey and a special 9/11 commemoration, Redskins fans should have been given a game ball.
"All those false starts? Our crowd was impressive," said defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin, who came up big in the clutch versus the Bears for the second year running. "It was beautiful. When you hear your home crowd behind you like that, it makes you want to go out there and make plays."
The decibel levels reached a point, Griffin maintained, "Where Chicago's offense just couldn't communicate. They jumped offsides, they had all those false starts. Our fans were key."
Head coach Joe Gibbs added: "The way our fans rose up in that fourth quarter shows you just why this is the greatest place to play."
At the 7:38 point of the fourth quarter, right tackle Fred Miller was penalized for a false start. Then it was left tackle John Tait, followed by left guard Ruben Brown. On the next play, at the 6:38 mark, Demetric Evans and a cascade of sound sacked Kyle Orton, the Bears' rookie quarterback.
Mark Brunell, who stepped in for Patrick Ramsey and was named the Redskins' starter for the foreseeable future, said: "If we can get this type of support every home game, we can do some great things."
The opening week of the NFL season was particularly rewarding for the New Orleans Saints, who did something uplifting for their beleaguered fans with a 23-20 win at Carolina.
Along with the situation surrounding fans in New Orleans, Redskins fans have to rank as one of the league's top Week 1 stories. It's not often that fans can have such a large impact on a game. It was real, not contrived.
There were 90,138 reasons why the Redskins were a winner on the first week of the football season.