Of all the people who helped commiserate with me after the Monday Night Massacre, over half of them openly conceded that they had damn near given up hope for the rest of the season. As fans, they had “mailed it in,” declaring the season over and filing it away as another year of all hype with no substance.
Really, do you blame them? The Redskins were beaten in every phase of organized football in front of the whole country: offense, defense, special teams, coaching, fan attendance – you name it.
So when the Redskins go and respond to that loss by beating a quality, playoff caliber team on the road – on a short week, no less – what exactly do we make of this team?
The easy answer is that we know this team is consistently inconsistent. We know that they have just enough talent and just the right amount of good coaching where they can beat a good quality opponent on their own turf, yet just enough of a lack of talent and effective coaching to where they can get blown out in front of the whole country. They’ve shown that they’re good enough to capitalize when thing start going in their favor, but not quite good enough to overcome when thing start rolling in favor of their opponents.
But here’s another way of looking at it: As a Redskins fan, how many times have we seen this team lose a game like that? Being on the right side of an overtime victory – two times this season, no less – is a completely unfamiliar yet very promising outcome for us fans.The Redskins of this past decade would have found a way to lose this game. It would have been one of their players committing a stupid personal foul on 3rd down, or bumping a receiver downfield right in front of a ref.
Let’s be clear: the win did not somehow reassure us that this is team is somehow a contender. Our offensive line is in shambles, our quarterback is irritatingly streaky in finding the strike zone, our wide receivers scare nobody, and our two healthy running backs couldn’t even start for their college teams. Defensively, we still have guys playing in positions which don’t match their strengths, We can’t stop the run, we can’t stop the pass, and we can’t stop mobile quarterbacks,
You have to believe that the players themselves realize that they’re so badly undermanned at this point that it’s going to be really damned hard. Yet ironically, could that be just enough of a rallying point to where they start reeling off a few wins against teams they “shouldn’t” beat?
Can this bend-like-hell-but-don’t-break defense hold the line just enough to where they can not allow opponents to drop 60 points on them – maybe holding them to just a few field goals – and give their offense just enough of a margin to where they can actually compete?
Even as they were being beat to a pulp in front of the whole country, the Redskins never mailed it in. Even if it was nothing more than pride and garbage points, the team kept competing, even as the Eagles onslaught kept coming at them drive after drive. Against the Titans, the Redskins did just enough of the right things, and made plays when it mattered the most, to secure a ridiculously critical win.
Do they have enough of that grit to where they can eek out a few more wins like this, especially in the face of an absoultely brutal stretch of games?
The schedule-makers did the Redskins no favors. Four of the Redskins next six games are against teams with winning records, and one of the remaining two games is against Dallas (in Dallas), who is playing much better football after firing Wade Phillips.
And even with that, the Redskins still very much control their own destiny. Minnesota comes to Washington with an 0-5 record on the road, while Favre is (once again) leading the league in interceptions thrown. The Giants are without their top two wide receivers for the next few weeks, and Eli Manning has turned the ball over six times in the last two weeks. Florida-based teams like Tampa Bay are not nearly the same teams when they come to cold weather climates in December (they come to Washington in three weeks). Anything can honestly happen when the Redskins play the Cowboys.
The Redskins have proven that they still have something left in the tank. Now, it’s up to them whether we’ll see the team that got streamrolled by the Eagles will show up for the rest of the season, or the team that did enough of the right things to win a critical game late in the season (like the one in Tennessee).