[Editor’s Note: This game will teach me to write leads before the end of the game.]
This was a rivalry game that was too big for 60 minutes. Instead, it needed 69:21 exhibition of some of the best football that the Redskins played all year. And long after the clock struck zero, this team kept fighting.
It just wasn’t quite enough.
In the post-game locker room, Redskins defensive end Adam Carriker described football as a game of inches. Appropriately, a few inches here and a few inches there were the difference in the score at the end of the game.
Players said that head coach Mike Shanahan told his team that this was a game that they deserved to win, and compared to the team that got shut out in Toronto three weeks ago, he’s right. Compared to the Redskins teams that took the field against the Cowboys (part one), Eagles, Panthers, 49ers, Dolphins, or even the Rams, this was a team that deserved to win.
But they didn’t quite pull it off.
This was a team that rose to the occasion today, finding significant success in all facets of the game. Quarterback Rex Grossman executed on offense, and put together four scoring drives–three ending in Grossman touchdowns. Returner Brandon Banks built on the sparks he’s put together in recent weeks, burning the Cowboys for 190 yards on seven returns. Punter Sav Rocca took over sole possession of the league lead in punts downed inside the 20, and has yet to yield a touchback on the season. Jabar Gaffney was open more than 7-11, and hauled in seven receptions for 115 yards and a touchdown. Donte Stallworth, who spent the fourth quarter of the Dolphins game grocery shopping, took over the fourth quarter today with four receptions for 51 yards and the game-tying touchdown. Outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan is exactly what the Redskins were looking for in the pass rush department, and has been an overwhelming success in his rookie campaign.
But it wasn’t quite enough.
The fact is that the Redskins played better today than they have at any point since the beginning of the season, and far out-paced their expectations for the day. This was a team that none of the major NFL analysts called to win the game (zero). This was a Redskins team that was 0-4 in their last four, going up against a team that was 3-1. This is a team that after five-straight losses, could have quit.
But they didn’t. They responded to a rivalry atmosphere and nearly pulled off the upset.
There are two approaches to the outcome of this game, and it boils down to whether the person is fixated on results vs. progress. On the one hand, they lost, and a loss is a loss. On the other hand, this is a team that was nearly dead in the water a few weeks ago, and has turned in their best total team effort in two months. Clearly, this team is a work in progress, but with as many moving parts as they’ve had due to injury and ineffectiveness, this team finally appears to be headed in the right direction.
Where they go from here, remains to be seen. After a short week of practice, we’ll see how this team responds in Seattle.
So long from FedExField, where the Cowboys pulled out the overtime win: Washington 24, Dallas 27.