Besides, how’d the Redskins ever get eight points behind those guys in the fourth quarter anyway? Washington dominated in yardage, took fewer penalties and, except on a few key plays (the ones that create or deny points), seemed clearly the better team.
However, the way the Redskins won this game in the final minutes, not simply the fact that they won, may show the beginnings of culture change.
“We don’t feel great about the performance,” said linebacker London Fletcher, realizing that when you outgain your foes 455-324, you’re not supposed to win by the tiniest of margins.
“But we can feel great about our team. Every part contributed at the end when we had to have it.”
The offense drove 73 yards for an 18-yard, fourth-and-three touchdown pass from quarterback Rex Grossman to Santana Moss. They didn’t make the two-point conversion to tie the game at 21. But then Fletcher’s defense held the Cardinals to three-and-out.
“Blitz, blitz, blitz — two of them ‘zero blitzes’ when we were sending seven, or even eight (pass rushers) depending on how they blocked us,” said Fletcher, grinning at the gambles called by defensive coordinator Jim Haslett.
Finally, the final 4 minutes 20 seconds played out like a Redskins’ script. Grossman led the fourth game-winning drive of his career — this one for 48-yards — to set up a 34-yard field goal by the man heretofore known as Graham (“Oh, No”) Gano.
“Everybody wanted to throw me under the bus after the first field goal (of the season) missed (from 39 yards against the Giants),” Gano said. “Everybody was hatin’ me for that. But I love (end-of-game) kicks. That’s the most fun. Because I know I can do it.”
This time he did, anyway, and, as a fine twist that had a “new Redskins” feeling about it, the Washington defense didn’t allow the Cardinals to mount a last-gasp drive, even though Arizona got the ball back with plenty of time for a winning drive with 1:45 to play.
On the very first Cards’ play, Byron Westbrook forced a fumble that was recovered by Reed Doughty. Suddenly, a Redskins team that has had terrible trouble “finishing games” or standing up to late-game adversity had suddenly done both within two weeks. They got the Giants down, then coldly put them away. And, after leading the Cards 10-7 at half, they let an apparently inferior team get into a winning position, but then rallied back.
This game probably had one true key play, one fulcrum: that fourth-and-three pass from Grossman to Moss that put the Redskins back in the game. Grossman, known as a gunslinger — sometimes to his detriment — in his Bears days, rolled right and had a receiver wide open for a short safe gain and an easy first down. Or he could put the ball in the air perhaps 35 yards to Moss heading to the back flag of the end zone.