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'Skins easily earn a trip to Tampa

NFC WILD CARD: RB Davis is injured, but Washington handles Lions 27-13.

Washington Redskins running back Stephen Davis pushes away Detroit Lions safety Ron Rice as he carries the ball for a 58-yard run. [AP photo]

By DARRELL FRY

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 9, 2000


LANDOVER, Md. -- The game was here at FedEx Field on Saturday, but they could've played it on the White House lawn and it probably wouldn't have mattered.

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This is the Washington D.C. area, but to the Detroit Lions, it always has been Waterloo.

The Redskins, successful defenders of their home turf against the Lions 19 straight times before Saturday, buried Detroit again 27-13 in an NFC wild-card game. That got Washington invited to Tampa for Saturday's divisional playoff against the Bucs.

The Redskins lead the series against the Bucs 5-4, but Tampa Bay has won four of the past five. They've split six meetings in Tampa.

In the Redskins (11-6), the NFC Central Division champion Bucs will face the second-best offense in the NFL, one that ripped through the Lions (8-9) with little difficulty.

And where the Redskins didn't get to the Lions, Washington's fans did. A capacity crowd of 79,411, braving a 45-degree chill, made life more miserable for the Lions, who left having lost their past five games and their past six post-season outings.

"The crowd was outstanding," Washington coach Norv Turner said. "We had trouble at their place (a 33-17 loss on Dec. 5) and they obviously struggled in our environment."

Washington running back Stephen Davis, whose effectiveness was questionable because of a tender left ankle, was knocked out of the game early by a mild right knee sprain, but it didn't seem to matter. By the time he went out at 9:59 of the second quarter, Washington was nine seconds from stretching its lead to 20-0 on a 23-yard field goal.

Davis already had gotten his licks in, trampling the Lions 15 times for 119 yards and two touchdowns. He broke loose for 58 yards in the first quarter, which set him up for a 4-yard touchdown run that made it 14-0.

He was injured fighting for extra yardage deep in Lions territory. He landed on his back and a Lions player fell on his extended right leg, jamming and twisting it.

He jogged briskly to the sideline. But Redskins coaches thought it best to keep him out the remainder of the game. His status for the Bucs game is uncertain, although Davis said after the game that he thinks he'll be able to play.

"I felt a little tingling in my knee," he said. "but I knew I had to get up and get off the field to let everyone know I was all right."

Quarterback Brad Johnson kept his team afloat with Davis out. His numbers weren't great -- 15-of-31 for 174 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions -- but he was solid when needed, helping the Redskins convert 9 of 18 third-down plays.

He also fired up his team by getting into a fight with Lions defensive lineman Robert Porcher, which led to Redskins right guard Tre Johnson getting ejected for joining in the fray and accidentally hitting a ref's head with a punch.

Brad Johnson, who ignited the crowd afterward by demonstratively flexing his muscles on the sideline, didn't throw downfield much, but instead relied on fullback Larry Centers coming out of the backfield. Centers had a game-high seven receptions for 61 yards.

Washington's defense, maligned most of the season, looked almost as impressive as the offense. The Redskins thoroughly stuffed Detroit's running game, allowing just 45 yards on the ground.

Lions quarterback Gus Frerotte, who torched his former team for 280 yards in Detroit's victory Dec. 5, had no such luck in his first return here after five years in burgundy and gold.

The Redskins pressured him constantly with an assortment of blitzes and stunts. Playing with an injured finger sustained early in the game, Frerotte was sacked five times and flushed out of the pocket often. He was 21-for-46 for 251 yards, 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions.

Heck, if it weren't for Frerotte's 2-yard touchdown pass to Ron Rivers on the game's final play, the Lions' only score would have been by their special teams.

With Washington attempting a field goal with 9:23 left, cornerback Lamar Campbell made a diving block of Brett Conway's attempt. Safety Ron Rice caught the ball and raced 94 yards to make it 27-6.

But with about 5:24 to go and after another Lions drive stalled near midfield, Redskins fans started chanting "We want Tampa; We want Tampa."

And by then, Detroit clearly didn't want anymore Washington.

"We took a good old-fashioned beating today," Lions coach Bobby Ross said. "I thought actually we could run the ball. ... Then the game got out of hand and we couldn't do it anymore. We just can't be one-dimensional."

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