ARLINGTON, Tex. — Let’s keep this in perspective. They beat a bunch of pageant beauties, a team with more dimples than substance. Nevertheless, how often does a crowd at Cowboys Stadium chant for the Washington Redskins quarterback, while booing their own team off the field at halftime? How often does a team get a performance in a must-win game like we saw from Robert Griffin III, so predatory and timely?
It’s hard to believe these words are landing in hard type: The Redskins are clearly the second-best team in the NFC East. That’s now established, and the division lead is actually in sight. For all of the holes in their defense, for all of Mike Shanahan’s throw-in-the-towelness, they are alive, and not just breathing through a tube either. This was a status report game, a where-do-we-stand diagnostic. Had they lost, Shanahan’s towel would have stayed thrown. But they’ve won two division games in five days, and not by a little — by a lot. They’ve put up more than 30 points twice in a week. Pick up the towel.
“It just felt like we were out there showing not only ourselves, but the Cowboys, and everybody, what we were capable of,” Griffin said. “Everybody showed up today ready to go, even with the short week. This is what we have to do: Be ready to play. I couldn’t be more proud.”
Their status is now this: They are poised for a strong last third of the season. They are healthier than they have been: Pierre Garcon’s foot was well enough for him to finally be a factor, and their offensive line is whole. They’ve put up 295 points, more than they scored all of last season (288). And there is not much separating them from the division-leading New York Giants — not much at all. The last time they met, remember, the Giants needed an on-the-money 77-yard scoring pass from Eli Manning with 1 minute 13 seconds to go for a 27-23 victory.
It’s not yet time to anoint the Redskins a sure playoff contender; they aren’t even a .500 team. But they are certainly a tighter, more disciplined, more self-believing and ascendant team than either the Eagles or the Cowboys. And to be honest, after watching the slack, careless, profligate play of the Cowboys for most of three quarters, it’s hard to imagine them recovering from this loss. They are not a team that radiates confidence or consistency; it’s a team of flash powder.
The Cowboys had a golden opportunity to knock out the Redskins, their biggest emotional and division rival, and get to 6-5. A Thursday game at home on Thanksgiving invariably and heavily favors the host, and the Redskins hadn’t won a turkey game since 1973.
But is there a team in the league that annually squanders more talent and opportunity than the Cowboys? Quarterback Tony Romo is all ambling casualness, grinny and impossibly wasteful. Dez Bryant is so gifted it makes his babysitter proud. The shiny-haired Jason Garrett applied his Princeton degree to the problem of how to attack the Redskins’ vulnerable secondary and decided not to go at it early. Instead, he called a bunch of short lobs over the middle. One of which resulted in that second-quarter interception by DeAngelo Hall that set the Redskins up at the Dallas 23, and led to the Redskins’ 28-point explosion.