With nothing left but pride on the line, Washington put a scare into Minnesota's hopes for a wild-card berth by outlasting the visitors, 21-18, before 76,876 at FedEx Field.
The Vikings (8-8), who were denied a playoff berth last season when the Arizona Cardinals beat them on a last-second touchdown pass in the regular-season finale, yesterday qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 2000 courtesy of the New Orleans Saints' 21-18 victory over the Carolina Panthers.
Even though the Redskins finished their season with a 6-10 record, several players said winning three of the team's last five games gave them some optimism for next year.
"It's been up and down all season, but to get a win against a good team ... really gives us a lot of momentum to go into the offseason," said tight end Chris Cooley, who caught one of quarterback Patrick Ramsey's two touchdown tosses.
"Throughout the season and especially in the last five or six games, we've really started to show some signs that we'll be a good offense."
Added running back Ladell Betts: "They came out wanting to win, and we beat a playoff-caliber team today."
Washington - which scored 240 points, the lowest single-season total in coach Joe Gibbs' 13 years with the franchise - also earned a little prodding from Gibbs, who reportedly took some time during a team meeting Saturday night to cite a Minnesota newspaper column that hinted that the Vikings viewed yesterday's game as a tuneup for a playoff run.
"We got a bunch of fighters," said linebacker Marcus Washington, the lone Pro Bowl representative from a defense that entered the game ranked second in the league. "It just so happens that they walked into a dogfight today. They weren't ready."
The Redskins never trailed yesterday as Ramsey connected with Cooley for a 6-yard score on the game's opening possession.
Ramsey, who went 3-4 as Washington's starting quarterback, completed 17 of 26 passes for 216 yards and added another touchdown throw of 4 yards to tight end Robert Royal.
Gibbs had high praise for Ramsey, who also was sacked three times and accounted for two turnovers (an interception and a fumble) inside Minnesota's 25-yard line.
"Today, we made a mistake or two, but the best thing he did was play to the kind of team we are; a very good defense, a very good kicking game," Gibbs said. "I thought he was good about that."
Ramsey finished the game with a better passer rating (100.8) than Minnesota quarterback Daunte Culpepper.
Culpepper, who entered the game leading the NFC in passing yards, touchdowns passes and passer rating, completed 27 of 44 attempts for 299 yards and two touchdowns for a 96.7 rating, but he was also sacked four times by the Redskins' defense and pressured into throwing the ball away seven times.
"There was no doubt in my mind that we were going to play this way," said assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams, whose unit limited the Vikings' third-ranked offense to 320 yards - more than 80 yards below its season average.
NOTES: Betts, who started in place of an injured Clinton Portis, posted career highs in rushing attempts (26) and yards (118). Betts, who also scored on a 1-yard run, said the offensive line created room for him to run. "The guys up front played hard. I definitely didn't want to let them down." ... Gibbs said the team gave a game ball to assistant head coach-offense Joe Bugel, whose father died yesterday morning. Bugel was unavailable to comment afterward.
Minnesota 0 3 7 8-18
Washington 7 7 0 7-21
First quarter Was-Cooley 6 pass from Ramsey (Chandler kick), 10:41.
Second quarter Min-FG Andersen 23, 11:32. Was-Royal 4 pass from Ramsey (Chandler kick), 1:17.
Third quarter Min-Moss 28 pass from Culpepper (Andersen kick), 5:41. Fourth quarter Was-Betts 1 run (Chandler kick), 10:41. Min-Robinson 38 pass from Culpepper (O.Smith pass from Culpepper), :02. A-76,876.
First downs 21 20
Total Net Yards 320 318
Rushes-yards 18-52 31-117
Passing 268 201
Punt Returns 2-14 3-22
Kickoff Returns 4-85 3-114
Interceptions Ret. 1-7 0-0
Comp-Att-Int 27-44-0 17-26-1
Sacked-Yards Lost 4-31 3-15
Punts 6-41.5 4-37.5
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 1-1
Penalties-Yards 7-49 3-13
Time of Possession 29:44 30:16
Rushing-Minnesota, Culpepper 2-24, Bennett 8-19, O.Smith 5-5, M.Williams 3-4. Washington, Betts 26-118, Coles 1-6, Cartwright 2-0, Ramsey 1-(minus 1), Jacobs 1-(minus 6).
Passing-Minnesota, Culpepper 27-44-0-299. Washington, Ramsey 17-26-1-216.
Receiving-Minnesota, Wiggins 7-58, Moss 5-66, Burleson 4-49, O.Smith 4-43, Robinson 3-51, Bennett 3-24, M.Williams 1-8. Washington, Thrash 5-81, Jacobs 3-56, Coles 3-37, Cooley 3-24, Gardner 1-9, Betts 1-5, Royal 1-4.
Keys to the game
LADELL BETTS: The third-year running back ran with determination and power as he registered the sixth 100-yard rushing game by a Redskin this season.
THE BLITZ: Four players recorded at least a half sack as assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams' unit harassed the Vikings' Daunte Culpepper often and rarely let the dangerous passer get settled or find a rhythm in the pocket.
SEAN TAYLOR: The rookie safety was frequently matched up on Vikings wide receiver Randy Moss, who caught five passes for 66 yards and one touchdown but was not his usual game-breaking self.
-- Edward Lee
Redskins' 2005 opponents
Home: Dallas, N.Y. Giants, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, Oakland, San Diego, Chicago.
Away: Dallas, N.Y. Giants, Philadelphia, Arizona, St. Louis, Denver, Kansas City, Tampa Bay.