Here at thehogs.net, Mark Solway often recaps Washington Redskins games with a "By The Numbers" piece that chronicles important numbers from the previous week's game; this week was no exception. That being said, a very important number was missing from that article, and this week's Cheap Seats column is dedicated to it: 21.
This number has been very important to this team all year. Of course, it started with the emergence of Sean Taylor in his new role as center fielder. His presence in the defensive backfield discouraged opponents from trying deep passes down the middle; when they were attempted, Taylor was there to either intercept the pass, or make the receiver return to the huddle and ask that that route be banished from the playbook.
Since his untimely death, the number 21 has served as inspiration for the once 5-7 team. Playing in his memory, the team is 4-1 and has scored more than 21 points in each of those four wins. Coach Joe Gibbs and his Washington Redskins have galvanized as a team in the face of great adversity. It is a testament to Gibbs as a coach and a man, the character of the players that make up the Washington roster, and the man who wore 21 that this team has dedicated themselves to honoring.
Lastly, and perhaps most telling, is the way that this team locked up it's second playoff berth in Joe Gibbs' second tenure: destroying the arch-rival Cowboys by 21 points. Depending on your belief system, this could be interpreted as karmic retribution, Sean Taylor looking down on his team from heaven, or pure coincidence; but the symbolic meaning is crystal clear. Whether this team steamrolls through the playoffs and brings home Lombardi number four or bows out in the first round remains to be seen. This is still Sean Taylor's team, and even if he's not on the field lighting people up, his spirit lives on through the inspired play.
This team could have folded in the face of the obstacles they have had to overcome this season, and quite frankly, few would have begrudged them for it. They could have, but they didn't. No matter what happens in the playoffs, the fact will remain that they didn't. They rose to the challenge, defied the odds, and now have as good a shot as any NFC team at making the Super Bowl.