Heads would have been called for, if not rolled. Shanahan would have rightly faced his toughest recriminations yet after the team that came out so inspired in the first half against the Buccaneers fell apart late again.
But, hey, the crew is 2-2. Life is livable again in Ashburn and beyond.
Now they look ahead. Now they talk of Griffin leading them back from the brink of 1-3, quoting cheesy sports movies.
“You try to rise to the occasion,” said Griffin, who completed all but nine of his 35 passes for 323 yards. “I think there’s a movie called ‘The Replacements,’ you know, they said, ‘Great players want their ball in their hands when it’s crunch time.’ Funny I just quoted that movie. But it’s also funny [laughing] that’s how it is, that’s how it really is. You want the ball in your hands. When something happens, you make it happen and that’s what they did.”
Now they talk about the Falcons being a real measuring stick on Sunday at FedEx Field, where maybe an improved defense and an offense that pulled out a big one will feel much better about themselves.
“One and three,” said safety Reid Doughty, shaking his head. “I don’t even want to think about what that would have been like. We’re talking looking back at what we did wrong again all week instead of looking forward to improving and getting back above .500. It’s a monstrous difference, even at this point in the season.”
“We have a good group of guys that are working extremely hard together,” Shanahan said in his postgame news conference. It’s a standard line, from Gene Hackman on the big screen to Vince Lombardi in real life. It’s code for, “Whatever happens, we like our roster and what they represent.”
But in any long-term process of team building, of moving from chaos and losing to focus and winning, there have to be victories that ensure the message stays relevant. Because if players keep hearing about change but it never results in a better place in the standings, at some juncture they just won't believe the message any longer.
“It’s huge,” Griffin said. “It means a happy plane ride back. It means a great week of practice. Guys will be feeling good. We’re 2-2, we’re .500 through the first quarter of the season.”
For Mike Wise’s previous columns, go to washingtonpost.com/wise.