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The Redskins opened yesterday's game with Buffalo with their own version of a missing-man formation, lining up on defense with just 10 men, a tribute to safety Sean Taylor. Unfortunately for Washington, they were unable to hold for just a few more moments as the Redskins led for most of the game before losing, 17-16, on Rian Lindell's 36-yard field goal with four seconds left.

For a month, the Redskins' season has been in a tailspin. They've lost four straight. But no loss on the field could be anywhere near the heartbreak of Taylor's death. Still, Washington held on to to the one thing they could possibly control -- playing football --- with the hope of  winning their final five, as Taylor's father had urged last week.

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Despite a struggling offense, they led all game because they held Buffalo without a touchdown and coach Joe Gibbs used the new strategy of icing an opposing kicker just as he booted the ball when Lindell made a 51-yarder at the end of the game. But rather than Lindell having to try another long one in the rain, the Bills caught a break when Gibbs called a second timeout, which resulted in a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and made Lindell's second effort considerably easier.

*  Another coach who was taking responsibility for a last-second loss yesterday was New Orleans' Sean Payton. The Saints were leading, 23-20, after having just registered a safety on Tampa Bay's third-string quarterback, Luke McCown. New Orleans had the ball, second-and-10 at midfield with about 3 1/2 minutes left and the Buccaneers out of timeouts. But instead of calling for straight-ahead runs to use the clock, Payton called a trick play that involved tossing the ball around in the backfield and the Saints fumbled. Tampa Bay took over with a short field and scored the winning TD with 17 seconds left. The defeat leaves the Saints, like the Redskins, at 5-7.

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* Minnesota rookie running back Adrian Peterson returned from from a knee injury, ran for 116 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries in the Vikings' 42-10 win over Detroit, putting the Vikings back in the playoff hunt. Just a few weeks ago, the Vikings (6-6) were considered finished and coach Brad Childress was considered among the most likely to be fired after the season.

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