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Flashback: Redskins Go Wild On Lions In '99 Playoffs


The season was 1999 and the site was FedExField. The 10-6 Redskins, winners of the NFC East, were hosting the 8-8 Detroit Lions in a Wild Card, first-round playoff game.

The Lions' quarterback was a man familiar to Redskins fans, for he had served in the same role in Washington for five seasons (1994-98): Gus Frerotte.

Frerotte's positon coach was none other than Jim Zorn, who would go on to become Redskins head coach from 2008-09.

The day, Jan. 8, 2000, would belong to the burgundy and gold.

While holding Frerotte to 7-of-17 passing for 111 yards in the first half – with 58 coming on a Hail Mary – the Redskins cruised to a 27-0 halftime lead en route to a 27-13 win.

Their aggressive, swarming defense yielded 258 yards and one rushing first down, and sacked Frerotte five times and intercepted him twice.

Redskins running back Stephen Davis, who set a franchise mark in 1999 with 1,405 rushing yards despite missing the last two games of the regular season with a sprained ankle, served as a huge inspiration.

He rushed for 119 yards on 15 carries with two touchdowns, before a sprained knee late in the first half sidelined him for the rest of the game.

Quarterback Brad Johnson had a solid outing with 174 yards passing and a touchdown pass late in the first half that boosted the Redskins' lead to 27-0.

The final margin could have been wider, but tight end Stephen Alexander dropped a touchdown pass and the Redskins missed out on an easy scoring opportunity in the second half.

"At that point, I thought we were as close as we could possibly be to being a championship team," ace kick returner Brian Mitchell said in looking back at the game. "We had finally arrived, put ourselves in position."

The Lions committed 12 penalties and suffered their 20th loss in 20 games in Washington, including three playoff games.

They had entered the game with four straight losses, their last win coming against the Redskins, an ugly day for the burgundy and gold. Rattled by the crowd noise at the Pontiac Silverdome, the Redskins were penalized 14 times for 122 yards. Johnson was sacked five times and his fumble was returned for a touchdown.

This time, the Redskins played before nearly maniacal supporters at FedExField and a crowd hostile to Frerotte, who was subbing for injured starter Charlie Batch.


Once an indisputable fan favorite before being released after the 1998 season, Frerotte was mocked by the crowd for head-butting a concrete wall during a game in 1997. Frerotte, for his part, said he had expected the negative crowd reaction.

On the game's first play, Redskins linebacker Greg Jones sacked Frerotte for a 7-yard loss, leaving him with a dislocated finger on his non-throwing hand.

"We wanted to get pressure on Gus early," head coach Norv Turner recalled.

The Lions self-destructed. A roughing the punter call on Detroit was followed a few plays later by a 41-yard pass interference penalty that set up a 1-yard scoring run by Davis in the first quarter.

On the Redskins' next possession, Davis raced 58 yards to the Detroit 29, a run that "kind of got everyone fired up," Turner said.

Davis later took it in from the 4-yard line for a 14-0 lead.

Rookie cornerback Champ Bailey's interception and a roughing the passer penalty then set up Brett Conway's 33-yard field goal and Davis's 32-yard run put Conway in position for a 23-yard field goal and a 20-0 lead.

Johnson's 30-yard scoring pass to wide receiver Albert Connell with 1:46 left in the half capped an 82-yard Redskins drive.

Detroit's offense managed a score with about 9 minutes left. Safety Ron Rice returned a blocked field goal 94 yards for a touchdown, which was followed by Frerotte's short scoring pass.

It was not enough for the Lions.

As Redskins fans may recall, it was something of a wild game, too. Offensive guard Tre Johnson and the Lions' defensive lineman Robert Porchet scuffled briefly and were sent to their respective locker rooms.

In something of a comic sequence, referee Bob McElwee's microphone mistakenly was left open as he offered some colorful comments about Johnson. Those comments were overheard in the press box and throughout the stadium.

With the victory in hand, the Redskins' postseason continued on to Tampa where they played the Buccaneers the following week in the NFC Divisional Playoffs.

The Buccaneers pulled off a 14-13 win at Raymond James Stadium, ending the Redskins' championship hopes.

Michael Richman is the author of the Washington Redskins Football Vault and The Redskins Encyclopedia, the two most comprehensive accounts of the history of the storied franchise. His web site is ***.*

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