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Brunell's the Talk of the Town

The night after he directed one of the most remarkable and improbable comebacks in the history of Monday Night Football, Mark Brunell attended a charity function in Washington, D.C.

When his name was announced at the Greater Washington Sports Alliance "Sneaker Ball," which benefits youth charities, Brunell received a standing ovation.


That's what happens in this part of the country, of course, when you orchestrate a 14-13 win over the Dallas Cowboys.

That's what happens when your perseverance motivates a team to play six minutes of exceptional football on the NFL's big stage.

You become the talk of the town.

Joe Gibbs, fresh off a Gatorade-style bath normally associated with his counterpart Bill Parcells, put it this way in reference to Brunell: "Almost everything was a negative deal for three quarters. To see him hang in there like that, and make three of the best plays for a quarterback that I've been around, and in one quarter, is really impressive."

It took a lot of courage to do what Brunell did against Parcells' defense. It also took a superbly well-conditioned athlete.

On third-and-27, with his team trailing 13-0 and appearing to be dead in the water, Brunell scrambled for a 25-yard gain that, all Redskins fans hope, supplied not just the momentum for a huge win at Dallas but also a spark for a playoff run.

The elusive move Brunell put on Cowboys linebacker Scott Shanle at midfield in Texas Stadium called to mind that of Donovan McNabb as a fledgling quarterback versus the Redskins' Mark Carrier and Matt Stevens at FedExField. McNabb's juke, on Nov. 26, 2000, helped Philly emerge with a 23-20 late-season win on the road. They went on to win their first NFC East title under Andy Reid.

Question: Is there a chance that, three or four months from now, we'll able to look back at Brunell's 25-yard scramble versus the Cowboys and point to it as the catalyst for the rejuvenation of the Redskins in the NFC East?

On an evening during which the Cowboys honored their famous triplets of Emmitt Smith, Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin, the Redskins came up with a shocker of a win to put a damper on the homecoming atmosphere.

Cowboys' fans, 65,207 strong, began the night with anti-Redskins chants but by the end of the evening they were actually booing their own team.

Until the last few minutes, the Redskins appeared on their way to another setback in the series, which would have meant 15 losses to the Cowboys in the last 16 meetings.

"It wasn't pretty but this win showed what heart and character we have in this locker room," said Brunell. "Plus, we have some guys who can really make plays."

In the final 3:46, Brunell delivered the two TD passes to Santana Moss that will go down in Redskins annals. They measured 39 and 70 yards. Without Brunell's scramble to keep the Dallas defense honest, the over-the-top balls to Moss may never have materialized.

Said linebacker Marcus Washington. "Tonight, I'm just proud to be a Redskin."

Gibbs said the win at Dallas has to rank as one of his finest moments in sports. Gibbs added: "Our guys keep fighting. They never think they're out of it. They'll fight you on every down."

Moss, NFC Offensive Player of the Week, was even more accurate. Commenting on Brunell's scramble, Moss was, so to speak, directly on the mark. His observation: "When you see your quarterback make a play like that, it inspires you."

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