Jon Jansen has a long memory. So this week, as the Redskins prepared to take on the Arizona Cardinals, Jansen has been putting out the word: Strange things have happened to the Redskins at Sun Devil Stadium in years past.
"We've had a lot of quirky things happen down there," Jansen recalls. "Probably the weirdest one that has happened since I've been here was when Stephen Davis was going in to score on the first drive of the game, fumbled the ball, and the Cardinals returned it for a touchdown."
Adds the Redskins' right tackle: "We've had a lot of those types of things happen down there. It's like any good football game. You have to protect the ball and not have penalties in key situations. For one reason or another, that stadium has provided those problems for us."
Jansen was referring to the Redskins' Nov. 5, 2000, trip to Tempe, Arizona. It was his second year in the NFL.
The Redskins sailed into Arizona with a 6-3 record and hopes of a big season. But Arizona pulled off a 16-15 upset win over an extremely talented Washington team that featured Davis, Brad Johnson and Champ Bailey, Pro Bowlers Marco Coleman and Stephen Alexander, and veterans Bruce Smith, Larry Centers and Irving Fryar.
As talented as that 2000 Redskins team was, it stumbled in the desert. When Aeneas Williams picked up the first-quarter, goal-line fumble by Davis, he went on to a marathon 103-yard TD return. A shocked Redskins team never recovered.
Jansen and the handful of Redskin players remaining from that 2000 team--LaVar Arrington, Chris Samuels, Mike Sellers, James Thrash, Cory Raymer--have been underscoring the point that Sunday's game in the Arizona desert has so much attached to it, in and of itself.
For one, Jansen says he's been communicating the importance of the game against the Cardinals to his younger teammates.
"It's one of those things that, as a guy who has been around the NFL for a little while, you see, especially at the end of the year, what these games mean," Jansen said.
"As we sit right now at 6-6, we look back and say, "If we had only done this against Tampa Bay or had only done that against Oakland.' We have an opportunity in front of us. We don't want to be coming in here next Monday and saying, 'If only we had done this against Arizona. We had our chance.' I'll express to the young guys what this game means to us and what we've experienced down in Arizona before."
Asked if he worries that this week's contest should be classified as a "trap" game, rookie cornerback Carlos Rogers said: "Not on this team, especially with Gregg Williams around. He's going to get us prepared each week. This is the biggest game and challenge that we have.
"We're not looking ahead to next week and the Cowboys. Coach Williams has us well-prepared to focus on this game. This is the biggest game right here. If we get knocked out by the Cardinals, our chances of going to the playoffs are slim."
Added linebacker Marcus Washington: "We're trying to take every game like it's the most important. We're in a playoff mentality already. We have to win every game. The Cardinals are definitely a capable club. So, we're going to have to be on our game."