And they hadn’t just pummeled their most reviled foe, the Dallas Cowboys, to clinch their National Football League playoff spot. There was a growing sense among the jubilant that the Redskins, in reclaiming a measure of their faded glory with the 28-18 victory, might just supplant the Cowboys as America’s team.
Credit the charisma of rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III, clearly hampered by injury but wily enough to keep his offense moving, and the grit of rookie running back Alfred Morris, who steamrolled for 200 yards and three of Washington’s four rushing touchdowns.
Those who were in the stands at FedEx Field on a frigid, moonlit Sunday night recounted with pride the ear-splitting din of the crowd of 82,845 chanting “RGIII! RGIII!”
Those who had watched on TV reveled all the same in a triumph that stirred decades-old memories of days when the Redskins dominated the NFL, winning three Super Bowl titles between the 1982 and 1991 seasons.
Whatever strife Washington was going through back then, the city’s mood on Monday mornings was determined by what the Burgundy and Gold did Sunday at RFK Stadium, where football fans from all parts of the city huddled shoulder to shoulder and cheered as one.
“The Redskins were uplifting for the city,” said Nate Carter, 65, manager of Smokey’s Barbershop & Oldies on H Street NE. “Washington has always had a lot of folks who don’t come from Washington, and the Redskins brought a great sense of bonding between all cultures — whether white, black, Chinese or whatever. Everybody was part of the joy of the Redskins’ success.”
From Carter’s vantage point, that joy was back the moment he opened for business Monday at 8:30 a.m.
“Everybody has been talking about how proud they are of our quarterback and our running back and the whole team,” Carter said Monday. “I do believe that bonding is back.”
It wasn’t just longtime Redskins fans who celebrated the team’s return to NFL relevance.
Malcolm Burnley, 22, an editorial fellow at Atlantic magazine, spoke of the six-month thrill-ride he has been on since moving from New York to Washington in June, watching sporting phenoms blossom.
“The city right now has so many young people who are coming in as transplanted sports fans,” Burnley said. “And having these charismatic players like Robert Griffin and Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg just wins you over as a new fan.”
Sunday’s game drew NBC’s highest-ever ratings for a prime-time, regular season NFL game. In the Washington market, it crushed all comers, with nearly seven of every 10 TV sets in use Sunday night tuned to the game, according to overnight Nielsen ratings.
According to online retailer Fanatics.com, the sale of officially licensed Redskins merchandise was up 267 percent this December over December 2011, tops among all NFL teams. And through the region on Monday, fans sported Redskins jerseys — Griffin’s No. 10 in particular — as a public proclamation of faith.