The stage was set.
This game would either end in bitter disappointment or a comeback for the ages. Perhaps the only people who believed the latter were in the Washington Redskins’ huddle.
For the first 55 minutes of the 2005 game, the Redskins’ offense, plagued by turnovers and penalties, looked even worse against a swarming Dallas defense.
With the Cowboys leading, 13-0, and about five minutes left, things appeared bleak for the burgundy and gold.
“I just remember we needed to get what we call “chunks”; we needed to get the ball downfield,” quarterback Mark Brunell said. “Santana [Moss] had a post route on and whenever you get a post route, you’re hoping for a certain coverage of what we call “Quarters” or “Cover 4,” knowing full well that [Mike] Zimmer, who coached the Cowboys in Dallas, likes to run that in these types of situations.”
The Redskins guessed correctly, and Brunell found
“The call was a very good call; we got the coverage that we wanted and I believe that Roy Williams was the safety on the front side,” Brunell explained. “Santana is so quick that really I just dropped back, saw the coverage and really just threw to a spot in the end zone.
“Santana, with his quickness, got behind the safety and we got that one. That was exciting; that kind of put us back into the game it still was kind of a long shot for us to get another one.”
But fate was on Washington’s sideline, as the defense held the Cowboys to five yards on seven plays, milking just 49 seconds off the clock. The Redskins got the ball back with 2:52 remaining in the fourth quarter.
“We do get the ball back and pretty much got the same play called,” Brunell said. “And to my surprise—and I’m still shocked to this day that we got the exact same coverage—and it was the same play.
“Cover 2, Cover 3, Cover 1 or any two deep safeties, I’m not even thinking about throwing to Santana because there’s a safety there.
“The safety was very shallow, Santana gets behind the safety, I threw it up and it was accurate. It hit him in stride.”
Brunell was elated, running downfield to celebrate with his teammates. As he ran, he looked over to the sideline to see Joe Gibbs and his staff, many of them Super Bowl winners, jumping up and down with the players.
“What was funny to me was seeing these guys that are in their 60’s and 70’s, and all of a sudden they’re jumping up and down like they’re 10 year old kids just screaming, high fiving and hugging,” he said with a laugh.
“We got the perfect call from the sidelines, and for about half a quarter, it became our night. I played 19 years, and there were some great moments, but that probably was one of the top-three because it was a team win.
“For us to do it against the Cowboys, on Monday night, in Texas Stadium, for all those reasons it became a special win for us.”
After the game, Brunell said it was one of the most thrilling locker rooms and craziest flights home he had ever experienced. But the best part for the father of four was delivering the news to his young son the next morning.
“It was a Monday Night game in Dallas. It was getting late on the East Coast and my middle son must have been 7 or 8 so he goes to bed,” Brunell recalled. “He was kind of bummed out; he saw that we were losing and stayed up until early into the fourth quarter.
“We got back very early in the morning and I went home to get everybody up to get ready to school. He told me when he got up, ‘Dad I’m really sorry about the game.’
“I said, ‘Hey buddy, I’ve got a surprise for you, we won that game.’ He had the biggest smile on his face. Just to see the smile on his face and his reaction—that was really a special moment for me.”