Redskins to finish vs. 'Coach Collapse'
Tice's team can reach playoffs with win in regular-season finale
BY PAUL WOODY
TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER
Sunday, January 2, 2005
Everything hangs in the balance for the Minnesota Vikings.
Nothing hangs in the balance for the Washington Redskins.
If the Vikings (8-7) win today's game against the Redskins, they are in the playoffs. It's that simple.
If the Vikings make the playoffs, Minnesota coach Mike Tice said, he'll no longer be known as "Coach Collapse," and almost everyone will stop talking about the Vikings' recent late-season collapses.
"Winning does wonders for everything," Tice said. "The meals taste better. Your kids are more polite. The only thing that's steady whether you win or lose is that your dog still likes you."
If the Redskins win today, the Vikings still can make the playoffs but need help from other teams. They probably also will need help in the playoffs if they aren't good enough to beat the Redskins.
Washington (5-10) has not beaten a team with a winning record this season.
Today, the Redskins will be without running back Clinton Portis (1,315 yards), who has a torn pectoral muscle and is on the injured reserve list. Cornerback Fred Smoot has said he will not play because of kidney and back injuries, and linebacker Marcus Washington, the Redskins' lone Pro Bowl player, is questionable with a bad knee.
Other than that, the Redskins are ready to rock and roll.
Tice, at least, expects problems.
"They are very, very good," Tice said of the Redskins' defense, which ranks second in the NFL. "They do everything good and nothing bad. They are the best defense we have played this season, and watching the way some of these guys get to the ball sends chills down your spine.
"And for Christmas, I want three of No.36."
No.36 is Sean Taylor, the Redskins' rookie free safety. Taylor covers large expanses of ground in a short amount of time. He also has been known to pick up personal-foul penalties for late hits and doesn't always use the correct technique in coverage.
The Vikings have the No.3-ranked offense in the league, and their passing game is one of the best in the NFL. Quarterback Daunte Culpepper has passed for 4,418 yards this season, has a completion percentage of almost 70 percent (69.8) and has thrown 37 touchdown passes and just 11 interceptions.
As if he didn't have enough to do already, Culpepper also is the Vikings' second-leading rusher with 382 yards.
Culpepper's 37 touchdown passes, though, have been overshadowed by the record-setting year Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning has had throwing touchdown passes.
"He has had a very, very good year," Tice said of Culpepper. "He has made very few poor decisions. He's been a great leader, a great warrior. At times, he has almost willed us to victory."
The Vikings' premier pass receiver, Randy Moss, has been hampered by a hamstring injury this season. He has just 44 receptions for 701 yards (15.9 yards per reception). The slack, though, has been picked up by Nate Burleson, a second-year wide receiver out of the University of Nevada.
Burleson has 64 receptions for 957 yards (15 yards per catch).
The Vikings' defense is a different matter. That unit ranks 29th in the league overall and is 30th in the 32-team league against the pass.
That is a good fit for the Redskins, whose offense ranks 29th in the league and whose passing game also stands at No.29.
"Our defense is better when Antoine Winfield is in there," Tice said. "Since he got hurt, we have not been able to hold the fort in the fourth quarter."
Winfield is the Vikings' top cornerback. He missed two games in December because of a sprained ankle and played against Green Bay on Dec. 24 in a limited role.
"He'll play," Tice said. "We'll play anybody who can walk. I don't think we'll hold anybody out this week."
Contact Paul Woody at (804) 649-6444 or email@example.com
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