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VIKINGS SPOIL THE PARTY Minnesota tops Redskins, 19-16
Redskins fall to Vikings in opener

 Proud native Washingtonian Jake Olmsted goes through security to get into FedEx Field before the game. The Washington Redskins lost to the Minnesota Vikings to open the 2006 regular season.
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Date published: 9/12/2006


ANDOVER, Md.--FedEx Field was awash in red, white and blue last night. But the prevalent color was purple.

The visiting Minnesota Vikings spoiled the opening game of the Washington Redskins' season of high expectations with a 19-16 victory on the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center.

A record crowd of 90,608--which included actor Tom Cruise, a guest and business partner of Redskins owner Daniel Snyder--went home disappointed after the Vikings used a 31-yard field goal from Ryan Longwell with one minute left to hand Washington its first season-opening loss since 2001.

Washington drove into Minnesota territory in the final seconds, but John Hall missed a potential game-tying 48-yard kick wide left with 12 seconds remaining.

Excitement was high as ESPN came to FedEx Field for its first-ever Monday night broadcast. The network inherited the prime-time series from its parent network, ABC, which had made Monday Night Football an institution for the past 36 years. Fans arrived hours before the 7 p.m. kickoff for tailgate parties and to watch a pregame flyover by Army Apache helicopters.

But the enthusiasm was tempered with the somber remembrance of the events of five years ago. A halftime ceremony honored those who died in the Pentagon attacks.

On the field, the Redskins entered the season with Super Bowl aspirations after reaching the postseason last year for the first time in six years.

But they looked like anything but a playoff team during a winless preseason in which they scored only 27 points in four losses. The first-team offense failed to reach the opponents' red zone even once.

Things looked better in the first half last night. Washington kept the ball for 8:10 on its first possession, which ended in Hall's 27-yard field goal.

And Clinton Portis--whose status for the game was in doubt last week because of a shoulder injury--scampered 5 yards in the second quarter for Washington's first touchdown of the season.

But the Redskins never reached the end zone again, managing only three short field goals from Hall. And former Washington quarterback Brad Johnson, cast off by Snyder in favor of flashy Jeff George in 2001, led the Vikings to two second-half scoring drives. Minnesota was aided by two personal foul penalties on mercurial Washington safety Sean Taylor.

The Redskins now have a short work week before facing a critical early-season test at Dallas Sunday night. Both teams are 0-1, and the loser faces an uphill climb in the ultracompetitive NFC East Division.

The Redskins stole a 14-13 Monday night win in Dallas in Week 2 last year on two late touchdown bombs from Mark Brunell to Santana Moss. That improbable victory jump-started their season--a bitter taste the Cowboys certainly haven't forgotten.

To reach STEVE DeSHAZO: 540/374-5443
Email: sdeshazo@freelancestar.com