Such things will make a team change its image of itself, especially the sight of Griffin back at quarterback. “Get in line behind him and see him take us to the promised land,” said wide receiver Santana Moss, who caught a 22-yard touchdown pass, tapping both feet down an inch or less from the end-zone sideline for what proved to be the winning touchdown.
Without doubt, these are giddy days for the Redskins, who have had only two winning streaks of more than five games in 20 years and only four in the past 30 years. But in the NFL, there actually are such things as “red-hot” teams that believe the breaks of the game, and the big plays that need to be made, are finally rolling their way. Partly, it’s illusion. But it also tends to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
“They expect to win the close games. That’s what’s different now. That’s where you feel really good,” Coach Mike Shanahan said. “Earlier [this season] we lost a few of those, games we had control of but couldn’t finish.”
The ending of this contest felt symbolic of a turn in the kind of hexed, bad-karma ill fortunes the Redskins have suffered for much of the past 20 years, but believe they are in the process of reversing. Knowing how to win is not magic. But it’s certainly knowledge that comes from experience.
With 23 seconds to play, the Eagles’ Jeremy Maclin was open by yards in the Washington end zone for what would have been a game-tying touchdown, but Eagles rookie quarterback Nick Foles chucked a wobbling duck of a pass that fell a yard short of the diving wide receiver.
“Maclin was open,” Fletcher said of what would have been a 17-yard scoring play. “What happened?” Told that Foles simply threw the ball poorly, Fletcher glanced skyward and said, “Sometimes it’s better to be lucky.”
The final seconds were full of misery for Foles, who said he didn’t “drive through” his throw to Maclin and that “I just have to take advantage of that.” Moments later, he nearly connected for a five-yard scoring pass that bounced off tight end Evan Moore at the goal line. Then, on third down, Foles made an almost inconceivable mistake, getting called for intentional grounding with one second on the clock — a penalty that resulted in an automatic 10-second “run-off” which, in this case, ended the game without another play.
“I just have to be smarter. It’s on me,” Foles said.
Those are words that might have come from struggling Redskins quarterbacks for years. But not anymore, not with Griffin in charge. “The brace is going to restrict you a little bit. It cut my mobility down a little,” RGIII said. “Still, it didn’t slow me down. I was able to do everything a quarterback needs to do.”
Griffin’s knee is the hinge on which the Redskins’ fortunes depend. After completing 16 of 24 passes for 198 yards with only one interception, when a high pass bounced off a receiver’s hands, Griffin may not be quite his most dynamic self. But that’s unlikely to dampen a party that the Redskins and their fans, without a division title in this century, have awaited for so long.
“We’ve got the recipe now. There’s no reason we can’t keep right on going,” Cofield said. Then he took a deep breath, stood to his full 6 feet 4, 318 pounds and said, “It’s a beautiful thing.”
For previous Thomas Boswell columns, visit washingtonpost.com/