So while those watching saw The Game Nobody Wanted To Win — featuring a combined 15 punts and 10 for 33 third-down efficiency — Mike Shanahan’s team saw more than a sliver of hope.
While most viewers covered their eyes, Washington came back from a two-touchdown deficit and won an NFL game on a baseball infield that it had to win if it hoped to dig itself out of an 0-3 ditch.
“Oh-and-four — we didn’t want to be there,” said Barry Cofield, who had two of the team’s seven sacks. “One-and-three makes a huge difference, momentum-wise. There were some losses in the division, so we feel like we’re in the fight as opposed to fighting for our lives.”
After Jim Haslett’s defensive front finally got to a quarterback and Griffin delivered in the crucible of the fourth quarter, the worst thing anyone can do is calibrate this 24-14 victory over the Oakland Raiders, who started their backup quarterback, lost Darren McFadden to a hamstring pull for the second half and still managed to be in the game with less than eight minutes left.
No, this one is chalked up to win-or-else resilience.
It featured Roy Helu Jr. hurdling a defender, circa 2011, and scoring the clinching touchdown in the fourth quarter. He picked up the slack after Alfred Morris was sidelined with a rib contusion.
Until the final minutes, when Griffin felt the rush, dodged trouble and threw a perfect dart to Helu — on what was probably the first genuine RGIII-esque play of the season that didn’t end with a dropped ball in the end zone — nothing about Washington signified ‘special team,’ or even average.
The defense did quietly bail the offense out, giving the Raiders and Matt Flynn nothing over the final three quarters.
And Pierre Garcon continued to play with an angry passion that almost makes you want to have Griffin and his No. 1 wideout play a two-man game for entire possessions.
Garcon’s five-yard touchdown on a quick slant with less than three minutes remaining in the third quarter gave Washington its first lead. Afterward, he slammed the ball down maliciously, essentially telling some of the most intimidating fans in sports a few feet away in the stands to bring it on.
It’s that kind of serrated edge missing the last few weeks from this team, that kind of ornery ‘tude that often demoralizes crowds and opponents on the road.
“You can’t be angry without the ball,” Garcon said afterward, not complaining but merely making an observation. “They get me the ball and I’m out there breakin’ tackles and stuff like that, then I can be angry. But you can’t do it without the ball.”