The 2007 Washington Redskins season was unlike any other that I can recall. It was a season of tragedy, of perseverance, and of heart. It was a season filled with mysterious and miraculous moments. It was a season that still holds relevance today.
Washington started the season at 5-3, and Jason Campbell was starting to convince fans that he was their guy for the future. Well, a few more losses piled in the following weeks to put the Redskins one game below .500.
And then, in the blink of an eye, heartbreak struck the entire Redskins community: Sean Taylor had died. Taylor injured himself against the Eagles, and missed the following game against Dallas. Taylor then flew down to his home in Miami to watch his team play Tampa Bay with his wife and daughter. Unfortunately, a few young men broke into Taylor’s house and shot him in the leg. Taylor would later be transported to the hospital, but would die soon after. It’s difficult to recall another instance in which a player died during the middle of the season.
Sean Taylor was just beginning to turn into one of the league’s best players. He intercepted five passes for 98 yards when the season wasn’t even halfway finished yet! Taylor is the last of his kind, however, seeing as with all the modern day rule changes, he would have surely had trouble adjusting to the way the game is played now.
The other funny thing about Taylor’s passing is that the Redskins haven’t found someone to replace him or be their answer at free or strong safety. Taylor played both strong and free safety at different points in his career. There have been young guys and there have been veterans – all falling short of Taylor’s play from 2004 to 2007.
After an emotional FedEx Field atmosphere and crushing 17-16 loss to Buffalo, Washington’s playoff hopes seemed mighty slim and the feeling of dreadful hopelessness was sinking in. But a fallen teammate turned out to inspire a 5-7 Redskins squad to give it everything they had for the final four games of the regular season. Maybe, with a little luck, Washington could make it to the post-season. In the players’ eyes, playing hard is what Taylor would have wanted.
But Washington took another blow during a Thursday night game against Chicago, when Jason Campbell went down due to an injury. Campbell dislocated his patellar tendon, promptly surging shock and disappointment for all of Redskin faithful. Todd Collins was the man called on to replace Campbell. Familiar with Al Sanders’s offensive system, Collins shocked everyone and made replacing Campbell look easy, going 15 for 20 and 224 yards with two touchdowns (144.6 quarterback rating) in a 24-16 victory.
The following week, Collins would complete just 8 of his 25 attempts for 166 yards against the Giants. But Washington’s running attack with Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts, was all too effective for the future Super Bowl champions as the Redskins won their second game in a row, 22-10.
Could the Redskins win three consecutive games? Their next match-up would surely be a tough task against Adrian Peterson and the red hot 8-6 Vikings, a team that had won its previous five games. But Collins and the Redskins came out firing. Two first half touchdown passes to Chris Cooley and Santana Moss would help put the Skins up 22-0 at halftime. In fact, Washington pitched a shutout until the end of the third quarter. Washington would go on to win big, 32-21.
Collins showed no signs of slowing down, completing nearly 76% of his passes for 254 yards and two more touchdowns. It was like all the time Collins spent on the bench, he was studying the playbook vigorously, just waiting for his opportunity to come. It was like he was possessed.
At 8-7, the Redskins needed a win to make the playoffs. Their opponent? None other than the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys had already clinched the division and weren’t playing for much, but Washington wasn’t going to let up.
Once again, Collins looked sharp, throwing for 244 yards, including a 42-yard bomb to Moss, and no interceptions. For a guy who hadn’t started a game since 1997, Todd Collins was redefining what a long-time backup was made of.
Completing over 70% of your passes and having a touchdown to interception ratio of 5:0 in three of the four games is a great stat line. Putting up those numbers when you were previously a backup for ten years is practically unheard of. In a dominant team performance, Washington defeated Dallas, 27-6. The interesting thing to that score is that the point differential (27-6) is 21, which was Sean Taylor’s jersey number.
Washington’s streak would end the following week in Seattle for a wildcard playoff game. Though Collins had managed to put his team up 14-13 in the fourth quarter, he threw two costly interceptions, both of which were ran back for touchdowns. Final score: Redskins 14, Seahawks 35. The point difference was once again, 21 (35-14). Try that for an eerie occurrence. Maybe Sean Taylor was watching.
Though the Redskins ended on a low note, the season was an emotional high. Fighting back tears after one of your best players died is terrible to think about. Doing that while winning three games in a row with a no-name quarterback is even harder. That’s why the 2007 Washington Redskins season is a season like no other.