LANDOVER, Md. - Clinton Portis celebrated the apparent winning touchdown with a leap into the end zone, capping a 43-yard reception that gave the Redskins a one-point lead with 2:35 to play.
Oops. Scratch that. Flag on the play.
Receiver James Thrash was whistled for illegal motion, a call Thrash didn’t understand and one that Washington coach Joe Gibbs called “an absolute mystery.”
The Green Bay Packers had a different feeling: sheer relief.
Al Harris intercepted a pass on the next play, and the Packers drove for an insurance touchdown to cap a 28-14 victory Sunday that pulled Green Bay (4-4) back to .500 after a 1-4 start.
If history holds, the result portends a victory for John Kerry on Tuesday because the result of the Redskins’ final home game before the presidential election has always accurately predicted the White House winner. If the Redskins win, the incumbent party wins. If they lose, the incumbent party is ousted.
“Oh, yeah, he’s going to win. It’s guaranteed,” said Packers safety Darren Sharper, a Kerry supporter. “I don’t have to vote now. Don’t even have to go to the polls. Saved me a trip on Tuesday.”
The streak began in 1933, when the Boston Braves were renamed the Redskins. Since then, beginning with Franklin Roosevelt’s re-election in 1936, the trend has held, including a 2000 Redskins loss to the Tennessee Titans that predicted George W. Bush’s win over Al Gore.
Brett Favre had an erratic game, playing with a sprained hand, a banged thumb and the distraction of his wife undergoing breast cancer treatment. He completed 20 of 33 passes for 289 yards and a touchdown and three interceptions.
But the play everyone will remember is the negated touchdown.
“I was exhausted,” Washington tackle Chris Samuels said. “I was chasing Clinton all over the field after we scored the touchdown trying to hug him. I was like, ‘Slow down, man. I’m trying to celebrate with you.’ Then, I turned around and saw the officials calling us back. It’s just disappointing. It’s tough.”
The other perspective?
“I won’t even lie to you — my heart sank when I saw him run into the end zone,” said Green Bay’s Bhawoh Jue, who made his first start since 2001 in place of injured safety Darren Sharper. “I have full confidence in my offense, but I’m glad they didn’t have to go back out.”
The flag was apparently thrown because Thrash was not set for a full second after going into motion on the play. He said he didn’t want to comment on the call because he “didn’t know for sure” if it was the right one.
Gibbs didn’t seem satisfied with the explanation the officials gave him.
“They said it was James Thrash,” said Gibbs, whose team dropped to 2-5. “I know it wasn’t James. He’s super-smart and doesn’t make mistakes like that. ... It’s an absolute mystery to me.”
Favre was brilliant early and awful late. The Packers scored on their first three possessions to take a 17-0 lead, but two interceptions by Shawn Springs set up Washington’s two touchdowns, and Fred Smoot’s interception set up the penalty-negated touchdown pass to Portis.
Favre grimaced at times as he grabbed the throwing hand he sprained in last week’s victory over Dallas, and he banged his thumb somehow in the third quarter, but he downplayed the injuries.
“I’m pleased with the win, but I can’t be satisfied with the way I played,” said Favre, who extended his streak to 33 games with at least one TD pass in his 199th consecutive regular-season game. “It would be nice to sit here and blame it on something else, but I’m not going to do that.”
Since learning of his wife’s breast cancer three weeks ago, an ordeal that became public only last week, Favre has completed 68 of 100 passes and the Packers have outscored their opponents 107-44. They now have a bye week to get several players healthy.
“It’s hard to believe we’re sitting here talking about 4-4 is a great place to be,” Favre said. “But considering we were 1-4 not long ago, I’ll take it.”
The Packers gained 361 yards, becoming the first team this season to tally more than 300 yards on the Redskins, whose defense entered the game ranked No. 1 after facing a string of weak offenses.
Washington, meanwhile, still hasn’t scored more than 18 points in a game. Fans booed quarterback Mark Brunell frequently and chanted for backup Patrick Ramsey several times.
“You don’t feed off it, you never want it to happen and you certainly hear it,” said Brunell, who went 25-for-44 for 218 yards with two touchdowns to Rod Gardner, two interceptions and was sacked four times. “It’s frustrating because you’re not going to be perfect. You’re not going to hit every throw. You’d certainly like to, but you just go out there and do your best.”
The Packers’ first three drives included completions of 41, 48 and 48 yards, equaling the number of 40-plus passing gains by the Redskins all season. Favre picked on a secondary missing strong safety Matt Bowen, out for the season with a knee injury, and rookie Sean Taylor, inactive following his arrest Thursday on a drunken driving charge.
Notes: Washington kick returner Chad Morton injured a ligament in his right knee and will have an MRI on Monday. ... Green Bay linebacker Paris Lenon injured his left knee. ... Favre passed John Elway at No. 2 on all-time completions list, giving him 4,133 to Elway’s 4,123. Dan Marino is the all-time leader with 4,967.
ProFootballTalk: Patriots QB Tom Brady addressed Wes Welker’s decision to head West to Denver. Brady says he isn’t surprised by anything after being in the league for so long and hopes that Welker has a great season with the Broncos.
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