Everyone knows RG3 has been The Story. The contributions of the rest of this year's Redskins have been absolutely indispensable to this year's success. However, the talk, whether it's been from the media to fans, to players themselves, RG3 is it. That's what makes this win so special.
Today's music was a symphony of emotion on a scale Redskins fans have not experienced since 2007, at the latest. Starting the other rookie quarterback, every fan knew the defense had to step up. When the going gets tough, my father says. In deed. (Spacing intentional.)
This, I thought grimly before kickoff, will be a Redskins game of old. Can the 'Skins defense hold together and slow the Browns down enough for the offense to secure a victory? Will Trent Richardson finally get going? I liked our run defense this year against every back but Ray Rice, (including Adrian Peterson, for which I had the last laugh, when I was roundly roasted) but who couldn't be nervous when a passing defense threatening the 'worst ever' title would be tested early and often.
Kirk Cousins struggled early. There was a chorus of 'game overs' and 'trade value lost' comments in the gamethread to my shock and utter disgust. Real DC fans hang tough. I'd sat through enough games that made me sick to my stomach that I wasn't afraid to sit through one more with the playoffs on the line in December for the first time since...2006?
The Browns played chippy, early and often. When Trent Richardson took a baseball swing and saluted the crowd after scoring, I saw a slightly offended 1st round pick taking a passive-aggressive swipe at a 6th round gem and got steamed. But I didn't lose faith because the Redskins didn't either.
Special teams was on point. Joshua Cribbs got some rough early treatment. The LorAx spoke with the thunder of guns and I started getting pumped up. 'Thunderstruck' wasn't blasting inside my head just yet, granted it was the Cleveland Browns offense, but the defense was getting stops and I kept thinking 'they're holding...they're really holding'. I witnessed Trent Richardson failing to provide much of a spark between the 20s and Brandon Weeden failing to pick apart the secondary with a sparkling pocket.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. I couldn't help but sigh when the Browns ended the half with a score and a 14-10 lead with the ball coming to start the second. But still, I thought, down 4 the game is within reach and the defense has only surrendered one real TD drive. The Skins can find a way to win this game. Cue 'Thunderstruck'.
Cleveland got the ball and Weeden tossed an interception. You know how the guitar intro goes. Alfred Morris put the cap on that drive. He gave Trent Richardson back the homerun swing and saluted the crowd. THUNDER!
3-and-out for Cleveland. Guitar intro builds. Moss! Morris! Hank again! THUNDER!
Paulsen! Garcon! Morris! ROYSTER! THUNDER!
DJ Johnson gets burned deep and I WAS CAUGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF A RAILROAD TRACK. THUNDER!
Gut check. Redskins get the ball and start driving. AND I KNEW THERE WAS NO TURNING BACK. THUNDER!
Moss fumbled deep in Browns territory and MY MIND RACED AND I THOUGHT WHAT COULD I DO? THUNDER!
I've thought so often of RG3 in moments like those, that he could bail us out with the team in trouble, but I KNEW THERE WAS NO HELP, NO HELP FROM YOU. THUNDER!
That bouncing ball was the playoffs to me. It was every situation that turned against my football team. It was all the bad luck and the shitty calls and the logic of building for another year or enduring another anticlimax and SOUND OF THE DRUMS, BEATIN IN MY HEART, THE THUNDER OF GUNS! TORE ME APART
Pierre Garcon was just a flash of white as the ball bounced. Hope leapt in my heart. It didn't matter that it was him. It was every Redskin player I've ever cheered for. It was every Wizards player I ever cheered for. Every Orioles player I ever cheered for. I didn't see the Browns. I saw the Yankees. I saw LeBron James. I saw the Cowboys. I saw Pierre Garcon. YOU'VE BEEN THUNDERSTRUCK!
The Redskins have seized control of their own destiny from the abyss of 3-6. Of 'not mathematically eliminated'. Of 'the playoffs started six weeks early'. And The Story was on the sidelines. The Redskins are ready for RG3 to come back and lead them, but it's no longer a matter of 'don't lose the game and he'll bring us through it'.
The Redskins blew out a team that hadn't been blown out all year. They did it without RG3. They did it with the oft-criticized Kyle Shanahan calling a masterful game. With the much-maligned Jim Haslett dialing up the defense. With the corners defending passes and safeties sealing over the top. With the d-line holding and the linebackers bringing pressure and generating turnovers. They did it with the receivers gutting out extra yards like running backs. Some love for Joshua Morgan! Alfred Morris and the line kept banging and the Cleveland's d-line couldn't hold out. Kirk Cousins did it with Mike Shanahan mentioning his name in the same paragraph as Drew Brees and Brett Favre and the football gods not striking him down and defenders in his face all night long. They did it with special teams delivering big hits and keeping field position under control. This was everyone's victory and today, that is The Story.
This team may be just RG3 and the Redskins to the media-at-large, but to me, they became the Redskins. Confidence and momentum and hitting their stride and adjustments all made at the right time; peaking in DECEMBER for Chrissake. So light 'em up, sports fans and enjoy a Victory Cigar. Who knows where the season goes from here but we could easily end up seeing our team in a fight for the division title against the Cowboys in the last game of the season. I can almost taste the epic. YOU'VE BEEN...THUNDERSTRUCK!