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Despite Rain, Byner Couldn’t Be Finer : Pro football: He rushes 39 times for 149 yards to lead Redskins to a 25-10 victory over the Patriots. Washington clinches its first playoff berth in three years.

From Associated Press

Washington workhorse Earnest Byner carried the Redskins to their first playoff berth in three years, then Coach Joe Gibbs piled more responsibilities on the sturdy shoulders of the running back.

“He’s a good leader,” Gibbs said after Washington’s 25-10 victory Saturday over the New England Patriots. “If we are to do well in the playoffs, we need a leader as a running back.”

Byner ran a career-high 39 times through a driving rainstorm for 149 yards and a touchdown--his third consecutive 100-yard rushing game--as the Redskins (9-5) won their third game in a row while running only 56 offensive plays.

Byner reached a career high of 1,031 yards in a season. His previous high was 1,002 for Cleveland in 1985.

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“The 1,000 yards is a tribute to the offensive linemen,” said Byner, the NFC’s second-leading rusher. “The coaches told me to just keep pounding the ball. The (artificial turf) field held up well. It wasn’t slippery.”

The Redskins’ first postseason appearance since they won the 1988 Super Bowl will be as a wild-card team from the NFC East. The New York Giants have clinched the division title.

“We’ve got to hold it together for that home-field advantage. We’ve still got a lot to play for,” Gibbs said.

The Patriots (1-13) extended their club record to 12 consecutive losses.

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“We were more competitive, but we still didn’t win,” defensive end Brent Williams said. “We didn’t get enough done. That’s the bottom line.”

The Redskins got nine points before their offense got the ball.

First, they scored on Kurt Gouveia’s 39-yard fumble return after a botched handoff from Tommy Hodson to John Stephens on the third play of the game.

The Patriots failed to get a first down on their next series, and, with the ball at their 15, Chris Gannon snapped it over punter Brian Hansen’s head and out of the end zone for a safety.

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The Patriots set a record for the lowest attendance in a regular-season, non-strike game in their 20 years at Foxboro Stadium, 22,286. The previous record was 22,383 against Indianapolis on Dec. 16, 1984. The Patriots have played before the four smallest crowds in the NFL this year.

New England, usually out of contention by the fourth quarter, chipped away at a 19-0 halftime deficit. Stephens scored on a four-yard run in the third quarter and Jason Staurovsky kicked a 42-yard field goal with 11:08 left in the game.

“It was a hard game for us,” Gibbs said. “They looked like they were going to make a game of it in the third quarter.”


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