The complexion of the Washington Redskins’ season has changed dramatically after two victories over NFC East foes four days apart this week, culminating with their first-ever Thanksgiving Day triumph over the Dallas Cowboys.
That win Thursday in Arlington, Tex., put the Redskins in a second-place tie with the Cowboys, with identical 5-6 records. The New York Giants lead the division at 6-4. If the Giants lose Sunday night to the Green Bay Packers, the Redskins would be playing for a share of first place when they host the Giants in a Monday night game Dec. 3 at FedEx Field.
“It’s kind of how it goes,” Redskins linebacker London Fletcher said after the Thursday’s victory. “You win a few games in November just to give yourselves a chance. We really just had to win a game against Philly to stay in this thing. To come in here and get a win against the Cowboys is big. And now we just put ourselves in position to make next week’s game against the Giants even more important.”
The Redskins were 3-6 and on a three-game losing streak when their bye week arrived. They had lost to their Carolina Panthers in their final game before their bye, and Coach Mike Shanahan had created a bit of a stir with his postgame comments about the rest of the season being about evaluating players. Shanahan spent the days that followed the Carolina loss saying he wasn’t giving up on the season.
Since then, however, the Redskins have taken steps to reassemble a season that had seemed so broken. Getting back to NFC East play has helped. The Redskins beat the reeling Eagles, 31-6, on Sunday at FedEx Field, then dealt with the quick turnaround of playing on Thanksgiving and scored four second-quarter touchdowns Thursday to take a 28-3 halftime lead over the Cowboys. At that point, they’d outscored the Eagles and Cowboys by a 59-9 margin over a span of six quarters.
The Cowboys put up 28 second-half points but the Redskins managed to hold on to prevail, 38-31.
“It feels great,” wide receiver Santana Moss said Thursday evening in the visitors’ locker room at Cowboys Stadium. “It got emotional that last half, that last quarter, those last drives.”
Rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III had a superb week, with four touchdown passes in each game. And the rest of the team provided enough support for the Redskins to elevate themselves to contender status, at least by the NFC East’s modest standards these days.
“I feel that when you take care of your business,” Moss said, “you put yourself in those situations. … Coming off the bye, who would have known that we’d be where we’re at right now but us? We just kept striving and kept pushing and just knowing that at the end of the day, it’s going to all fall in our hands for us to go out there and take it. And that’s what we’ve got to do.”
Redskins players said they weren’t getting carried away just yet, though, with the turnaround and the possibilities that it has created for meaningful games the rest of the season.
“It’s a great feeling that we’re doing the right thing,” defensive end Stephen Bowen said. “But we can’t feed into it and everything at this point. We’ve won two in a row. People are probably going to start talking good about us. But we’ve just got to stay the path. … I don’t think it’s crazy at all. I think after the bye, everybody just focused themselves. We knew what we had. We had a lot of talent.”
Left tackle Trent Williams said he was less than stunned by the reversal.
“I’m not surprised,” Williams said. “It’s football. It’s never over until it’s over.”
Said Griffin: “I feel as if something is building. Being 3-6, the character of your team is tested. … We might have thought we could do it. Now we know we can do it, and it’s in our hands.”
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