At midseason yesterday, the Redskins showed - almost conclusively - that they are capable of beating 2-4 teams that are with an injured quarterback who throws more one-hoppers than completions.
Of course, that was not immediately obvious before the Eagles came to town - and not a fact until Brad Dusek, with a defensive leap the Bullets might study, smacked the final Ron Jaworski incompletion to the ground with 41 seconds left and the Redskins six points ahead.
After back-to-back disasters, though, everyone gets the benefit of the doubt here after the 23-17 success, from coach George Allen and his unique logic through Joe Theismann and even Danny Buggs, who actually caught a pass - and a tough one at that.
For the first time in what seemed at least 10 years, the offense scored two touchdowns in the first quarter, on two fine Theismann fast balls to tight end Jean Fugett. Then, instead of building on that 14-0 lead, the Redskins again showed their special flair for sustaining drama.
"We got to thinking," said defensive tackle Bill Brundige, "and that's always dangerous." He was referring to the Eagles immediately driving 79 yards in a touchdown without throwing a pass.
"We relaxed," he said. "We kept waiting for them to throw, to use play-action passes. But they kept giving the ball off - and moving us off the line."
In other years, there might have been the temptation to scold the offense for wasting such excellent field position for so long yesterday. But it's at least alive at the moment, and while Theismann hardly was overwhelming in his latest bid to move ahead of Billy Kilmer for good he was a winner.
In addition to two touchdown passes, Theismann threw three completions to Redskins in the Eagle end zone that did not count, for reasons that included the penalties that have been so upsetting the prior six games.
Still, though they seemed so significant at the time, the Redskins in fact improved their penalty situation considerably yesterday. In the first six games, Washingtoin had been caught for 49 penalties that totaled 427 yards - not the league lead but close.
And just when certain cynics were about to label the Redskins offensive line Terry Hermeling and the Holding Company the penalties yesterday stopped at four, for a total of 35 yards.
Though the much-needed W was gained, some customers detected some un-Allen like thinking from the Redskin coach, a bit of unnecessary daring at two points.
Both came in the fourth quarter with the Redskins six points ahead, the first when Allen might well have opted for one of Mike Bragg's punts inside the Eagle 10 instead of a Mark Moseley 54-yard field goal that failed.
"He came and asked if I could make it," said Moseley, "and I said, 'Sure.' And I should have. I kicked it too hard, tried to force it. I'm strong enough without trying that.
"But it's good for me - and the offense - that he has confidence in situations like that. I feel I can make anything he want up to 60 yards."
The other curious piece of nonstrategy - and Allen got quite testy when questioned about this - came with just less then two minutes left in the game. From the end zone, Bragg punted and gave the Eagles fine field position for their final push.
Why not take a safety instead, because it takes a touchdown to win no matter what, and allow Bragg an unmolested chance to loft the ball far downfield for the last Philly fling?
"We won the football game," Allen said. "I don't want to go over all that stuff."
Indeed. And Allens fate also rides on Theismann's arm and Moseley's leg, Bugg's hands and the health and mental alertness of every other player. Instead of being guaranteed four more years more years of steady paychecks, if not employment. Allen has yet to sign the contract that was supposed to be finalized months ago.
So the coach is as vulnerable as many of his players, one of whom, Pete Wysocki, left with a hamstring injury that may well sideline him two games, and another, middle linebacker Harold McLinton, with no feeling from the right side of his neck through the fingers of his right hand.
That is regarded as rather minor, what the NFL calls a "nick." In fact, McLinton played more than half the game in that condition.
"A pinched nerve," he said. "I had to be extra careful when I tackled anyone, to make sure I squeezed real hard. It (the feeling) will be back, though. Maybe tonight, or tomorrow, but sometime soon."
That was nearly the condition of the body Redskin a week ago - numb. Some feeling returned yesterday, but whether full movement - upward in the standings - will take place will become evident in Baltimore. There are better places to get healthy.