Redskins defensive end Andre Carter is returning to San Francisco's Candlestick Park -- the place he called his NFL home for his first five seasons -- for the first time since 2005. Washington was eliminated from the play-offs last week by the Atlanta Falcons, bit Carter has plenty of motivation following the Redskins completion of a season sweep against the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Redskins 10-3 victory over the Eagles was fueled by a fiery effort from the team's 4th ranked defense, holding the Eagles dynamic running back Brian Westbrook to just 45 yards rushing and 71 yards receiving.
"We always knew where he was and had one of our athletic players keep an eye out on him. By stopping him, it gave us an opportunity to win the game, along with pressuring [Donovan] McNabb," said Carter, who had one tackle against the Eagles.
One of the "athletic players" that was shadowing Westbrook throughout the game was fellow defensive end Jason Taylor, who had his best game as a Redskin with three tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble.
Taylor, who had recently gone on a local radio show and exclaimed that he hadn't adjusted to the defense as much as he had liked, seemed like his old self when allowed to roam and stalk the offense. "I think he was comfortable with the coverage over Westbrook. The situations we had Jason in were something similar [to what] he did in Miami," Carter said.
Another defender who had a tremendous game was safety LaRon Landry, who made his presence known to opposing receivers on several occassions, reminiscent of someone Redskins fans tremendously miss. No play exemplified that more than the final play of the game in which cornerback Fred Smoot wrapped up Eagles wide receiver Reggie Brown and Landry launched his body from the endzone to knock Brown backwards and seal the victory.
"Not only myself but the rest of the nine guys expected LaRon to do what he does best. What he did was an amazing play and a great way to win the game. That hit did remind me of Sean Taylor," Carter said.
When asked if Landry's performance was due in part to the highlight video that defensive coordinator Greg Blache played for the defense the night before, Carter claimed that the video motivated all of the defenders Sunday night.
"I think everyone's performance was a result of the film the night before," Carter said.
"I think the highlight from Greg Blache showed us how good we can be if we play in unison. It's been a tough season, however, after watching the film, it made [us] realize that we needed to just relax and play our game, no matter what the odds were."
On a night in which the team honored the late, great Sammy Baugh by wearing stickers with the number 33 on the back of their helmets, the Redskins did what "Slingin' Sammy" strived to do every time he stepped on the field --- win.
The victory, Carter says, is a testament to the players on the team.
"It was great winning at home and against a divisional opponent. A tough opponent at that. We came out together and played as a team despite the fact that we didn't make the playoffs. It shows a lot of character as an organization because most players would have taken the day off."
This Sunday, the Redskins are hoping to end the season on a winning note by putting the team at 9-7, the same record as last season.
"Ending the season on a winning note allows us to not have a bad taste in our mouth for the remainder of the year. I have experienced that before and it's not a good feeling. You want to feel like you accomplished something when it comes to the last game of the season," Carter said.
They will have to get past a 49ers team that has undergone a lot of changes since Carter was a member of their defense. Some of the biggest changes have come this season, with the firing of head coach Mike Nolan and the emergence of interim head coach Mike Singletary, who appears to be on the verge of losing the "interim" tag very soon.
Singletary has seemed to light a fire under a young and underachieving 49ers team while giving them a sense of direction and purpose. He is also installing the mentality former Redskins head coach George Allen used to preach to his players: "never accept losing."
"I feel that he is going to be there for a long time. I feel that the players will play for him and play for each other. I feel that team is going to turn a lot of heads next year," Carter said.
"With the coaching change, the 49ers have won four out of the last six games. They are playing for something special now and that's the 49ers tradition. That tradition is based on excellence and becoming a successful team, which has been missing for a long time. Mike Singletary is trying to resurrect the 49er way."
Another change has come at the quarterback position where former number No. 1 overall pick Alex Smith has fallen from grace and former Maryland Terrapin Shaun Hill has seemingly come from nowhere to help resurrect a less-than-satisfactory season.
"My perception of Smith was he needed time to grow as a player. It's been rough for him due to the fact that he has had three coordinators and had a handful of injuries. However, I have always respected him as a player and as a person. Shaun Hill is the man now and he has been playing well," Carter said.
They also brought in former division rival Isaac Bruce to improve the wide receivier position and help lead a young group of pass-catchers.
"I feel that Issac Bruce is a great offensive weapon that you need to be on the lookout for. He knows how to make plays and if you are not careful he will humiliate you. I think it's good to have a tested vet on the field because it teaches the younger players how to be a pro; watching film, how to practice, how to prepare for opponents, etc.," Carter said.
When asked about how fans will respond to his return, Carter said he is unsure but during his time in D.C. so far, he has received appreciation from a few 49ers fans.
"I don't know. I told my wife that I am an old buck now. I am long forgotten. The Redskins are my home now. I am sure they will be talking trash. Ha ha ha. I have come across a few fans who have remembered me from back in the day and tell me that they miss me playing in the Bay. That's always nice to hear. It's all love from the Bay," Carter said.
"The feeling hasn't hit me yet but I am sure once I arrive I will feel a tad strange," said Carter, when asked if it would feel strange entering the opponents locker room at Candlestick Park. "When I was a 49er, I thought I was there for good. However, things do happen for the long run and I am blessed to be a Redskin."
Carter also recalled his fondest memory of his time in San Francisco, which is coincidentally a moment also enjoyed by Redskins fans everywhere.
"Coming from behind and beating the Giants in a playoff game in 2002. They were shocked."
During the historic 2002 Wild Card matchup, the Giants led San Francisco 38-14 with less than three minutes remaining in the third quarter and sealed the victory after a botched snap on the Giants game-winning field goal attempt. The 49ers ended up winning 39-38.
Under the Helmet:
THN: How was your Christmas? Any memorable moments?
AC: Christmas was great. My best memory was when my wife pimped out my 1975 Chevy. New paint job, wheel, and modified the engine. That's love right there.
THN: What are your plans for New Years and do you have any favorite New Years memories?
AC: I have never done anything for New Years except take time out for God and giving him thanks for all he as done within the year and pray for my family and friends that great things will come for them.