LANDOVER, Md. After scoring the game's only touchdown, Clinton Portis lifted his jersey to reveal a white shirt with the words "In memory of Sean Taylor."
They played for Sean. They tried to win for Sean, just as Sean's father had told them to do. The grief of the Washington Redskins was on full display Sunday, in front of 85,000 fans waving their No. 21 towels, but their fragile emotions were shattered when Rian Lindell kicked a 36-yard field goal with 4 seconds left to give the Buffalo Bills a 17-16 victory.
Five days after Taylor died from a gunshot wound in Florida, the Redskins defense did Taylor proud by not allowing a touchdown. Buffalo's points came on five field goals and a safety. But a major gaffe played a part in leaving Washington's players disconsolate at the final whistle.
Lindell made a 51-yard attempt that didn't count because the Redskins called timeout just as the ball was snapped. Coach Joe Gibbs then tried the same tactic again, but consecutive timeouts aren't allowed when attempting to freeze the kicker. The resulting 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty gave the veteran Lindell a much easier kick. His game-winner extended his streak to 17 consecutive made field goals.
Buffalo started its final drive at its 22 with 56 seconds remaining and no timeouts. A 31-yard pass to Josh Reed set up the winning kick.
Taylor's father, Pedro Taylor, had urged the Redskins to win out and make the playoffs when he addressed the team Wednesday. But Washington (5-7) has now lost four straight and is fading quickly from the postseason picture. The Redskins will attend Taylor's funeral Monday, then must try to find a way to focus for a Thursday night game against Chicago.
Buffalo (6-6), with solid performances from rookie quarterback Trent Edwards and third-string running back Fred Jackson, broke a two-game skid to keep its AFC playoff hopes alive. But the Bills were unwelcome outsiders on a day that was part memorial service and part celebration, one that fittingly ended in a chilly autumn rain.
Teammates and coaches addressed Taylor directly during a pregame video tribute.
"You're the best I ever coached," said assistant coach Gregg Williams, who thought of Taylor as a son. "You will be missed."
Fans held posters that called Taylor the "eternal 12th man." Another read, "4-ever a Skin, 4-ever a Cane, 4-ever 21," a reference to Taylor's stellar college career at the University of Miami before the Redskins drafted him in the first round in 2004.
When the Redskins defense took the field for the first time, Taylor's safety position was vacant: Only 10 players defended Jackson's 22-yard run around the left end. Taylor's replacement, Reed Doughty, then ran onto the field, and he was the one who made the tackle on the next play, a short pass to Reed.
When Santana Moss, one of Taylor's closest friends on the team, caught his first pass, he pounded his chest and held up his index and middle fingers and his pinky. It was his way of spelling "21" for all to see, and he often repeated the gesture sometimes with both hands when he caught a pass.
From a football standpoint, the Redskins offense had the same problem as in recent weeks: an inability to finish drives. Gibbs was set to go for it on fourth-and-1 at the 5-yard line on the opening drive, but a false start by "numerous players," as referee Tony Corrente put it, sent the field goal unit onto the field. Shaun Suisham kicked a 27-yarder. Later in the half, he converted from 28 and 33 yards, as the Redskins kept settling for 3 points instead of 7.
Buffalo's only points in the half came when Angelo Crowell sacked Jason Campbell in the end zone for a safety.
Lee Evans' juggling catch along the sideline set up a third-quarter field goal that cut the Redskins' lead to 9-5. Portis scored the touchdown later in the quarter, diving forward from 3 yards out before displaying the shirt that paid tribute to Taylor.
Turnovers by Campbell on back-to-back possessions put the Bills back in the game. Larry Tripplett forced a fumble that was recovered by Crowell, setting up Lindell's second field goal. Triplett then caught a pass tipped by Terrence McGee for an interception, leading to another field goal that made the score 16-11.
Jackson's 54-yard catch-and-run set up yet another kick from Lindell, a 33-yarder that cut the lead to 2 with 6:33 to play.
Edwards, regaining the starter's job from J.P. Losman, completed 22 of 36 passes for 257 yards. Edwards improved to 4-1 as a starter.
Jackson, making his first NFL start because of injuries to Marshawn Lynch and Anthony Thomas, ran for 82 yards on 16 carries and caught four passes for 69 yards.