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The Redskins went from flatline to headline...now the slate is clean and the field is leveled. Can the Redskins keep their unimaginable run going?
1. I remember driving home from FedEx Field after the Carolina Panthers game on November 4, listening to the post game news conference on the radio with CJ (who I wish was still on the air). As the two of us tried desperately not to take our frustration with the team out on each other--tell me that none of you FedEx regulars haven't faced this problem over the years--Mike Shanahan's press conference played in the background. Between the awful record at home and the overall losing ways of the franchise in recent years, the Redskins had become like the ring from "Lord of the Rings", injecting a negative energy into your car and your soul as you left the parking lot. If you weren't careful, you would find yourself arguing with your best friend over things like the drafting of Durant Brooks and the prospects of Malcolm Kelly. With one ear tuned into the presser and one ear tuned into CJ, I lifted my hand quickly to indicate I had just heard something on the radio that was more important than our immediate debate. Surely Shanahan didn't just throw in the towel on the season? His words that day have been memorialized of course. Like Tim Tebow's famous speech after the Florida loss to Mississippi in 2008, Shanahan's words would be brought up and used relentlessly by both critics and supporters as evidence of...something. As for me, I knew how I felt at that moment. I was not thinking about playoffs, to be sure. I had reached that familiar place where Redskins fans have arrived at some point every season over the last two decades. The Redskins had once again achieved irrelevance...the only thing worth watching the rest of the way was our stud rookie quarterback. Perhaps he could at least make a few remaining Sundays exciting for us.
2. The winning streak alone has been miraculous, but what it has done for the fan base is nothing short of a miracle as well. The truth is that at 3-6, we had little reason to hope that in one offseason, Bruce Allen and Mike Shanahan could plug the holes on defense while also upgrading the offensive line in an effort to give Robert Griffin III enough juice to push this team into contention. A lack of first-round picks and salary cap space was compounding a swirling sense of hopelessness. At 3-6, the Redskins were every bit the dysfunctional-looking franchise it had established itself as and resignation set in the hearts of the burgundy and gold faithful--the same resignation we all heard in Mike Shanahan's voice after that Week 9 affair. Once again, we were done...just this time we were done with a shiny new toy to watch as we played out the string.
3. Going from that moment to this moment seems surreal. Just as a frail and dying Mr. Burns went from dictating his epitaph to triumphantly returning to his glorious and diabolical form during a blood transfusion from Bart, the Redskins fan base got up off the mat and returned to form during this winning streak and playoff run. I mean...we were flat-lining, and now we are NFC East Champions!
4. As we try and grapple with how this even happened, the beauty is that from this position, we now DO believe that Bruce Allen and Mike Shanahan can continue to add youth and inject talent onto this roster to make it even better. After all, if we can win the division with the kind of team we started out with in 2012, imagine what we can do with a moderately upgraded version? What's more, that is not even the kind of baseless hope we would have had anyway at the end of the season had we continued losing. It reminds me of the feeling I had when St. Megan settled for my sorry butt so many years ago. I had no business being with such an amazing girl--it seemed ahead of schedule, as if I were supposed to suffer through at least another decade of being rightfully rejected by the female population. Instead, I shocked the world by getting the perfect girl to foolishly throw her life away by marrying me. In the interest of class, I won't bother making any analogies between RG3, Alfred Morris and any of my "charms" that may or may not have played a crucial role in the stretch run of the courtship. Class.
5. Now that we have had a week to process the record-setting performance of Alfred Morris, I find myself feeling strongly about underlining the magnitude of his night last Sunday. No matter what happens from here on out, we will all remember that #46 dropped 200 yards on Dallas in one of the biggest games the rivalry has seen in years. It was basically a playoff game against the team we relish beating the most, and our guy left the indelible mark on the game that will echo through eternity. I of course want to win playoff games at every opportunity, but that game and that individual performance will serve as a cornerstone of our fan base for years and years to come.
6. I love reading the comments sections of Dallas sites this week as Cowboy fans label our offense as "gimmicky" and "doomed to fail." They have already predicted that defenses will be all caught up to us by next season and that our brief run at the top of the division is done. First of all, I will gladly ride a "doomed to fail" offense to a division title and SEASON SWEEP of the Cowboys. More importantly, I will roll the dice with the evolution of our players and schemes from this season to the next. You keep thinking we will stand pat, Dallas. Keep thinking there aren't a thousand wrinkles that can be added to this that will continue to make defensive players look foolish. Keep thinking that a guy with the obvious talent and leadership of Griffin is "gimmicky."
7. I had the pleasure of watching Showtime's "Inside the NFL" last night and listening in to a miked-up Robert Griffin. Holy crap is it eye-opening. I could spend 10,000 words on it--you HAVE to watch it--but I will just talk about one thing I saw. At the end of the game, we all remember the long embrace between Santana Moss and Griffin (pictured above). I recall watching and wishing I could hear what it was that Moss was telling him. I got to hear it last night and it moved me. Basically, Santana Moss tells RG3 (in so many words), "Thank you so much...I really appreciate everything you have done." Here is a veteran that has lived through some real circus seasons in DC. Here is a guy that knows what beating Dallas is all about and has led the way himself in the past. Moss knows how precious division titles and playoff opportunities are and with a finite amount of gas left in his tank, he knows that his time is ticking away. It was such a genuine outpouring of gratefulness and appreciation. On one hand, it brings into focus just how ridiculously fast Griffin has assumed the mantle of leadership on this team. On the other hand, it puts on display the passion and emotion that has bonded Santana Moss to this fan base over the years. Few Redskin players deserve the chance to suit up in the playoffs more than Santana Moss, and it was awesome to hear in his voice that he grasps how special and amazing it is for all of us. I know he was personally thanking RG3, but it felt like he was thanking RG3 for all of us, and in his eyes I could see the look of years of anguish that had preceded that moment that we have all shared.
8. Moving on to the task at hand...this Seattle team will likely be the best team we have faced during our seven week undefeated stretch. They are as balanced as they are dangerous...and they are very dangerous. I simply don't understand the current Vegas line...it seems to me that we should be much bigger dogs than the three point dogs we are.
9. Quick Seahawk story: Everyone remembers the Replacement Ref debacle in Seattle at the beginning of the season when Green Bay was essentially robbed of a victory by referees that were not ready for the bright lights of Monday Night Football. I was at a bar outside of Phoenix watching the game and the two female bartenders there were following the game with unbelievable anxiety. As the game progressed and my group became more familiar with these ladies, the reason for their stress became clear. It turned out that one of them had placed a bet on the game with her husband. It seemed that this husband had won a few prior bets and was allowing her to roll the stakes into an all-or-nothing bet on this particular contest. All she had to do was pick the winner and her debt was wiped clean. If she picked the wrong team, however, she owed her husband something rather...uncomfortable--and I'm not referring to the backseat of a Volkswagen. Naturally, she picked the Green Bay Packers, who were legit favorites in the game. She was feeling pretty confident as the final seconds ticked away and Seattle lined up for one last shot at the end zone. Put simply, the list of folks that were rear-ended after that final play included one very shocked and speechless bartender...whose cell phone began ringing immediately after the unbelievably incorrect call was confirmed. True story.
10. Just as our losses in Seattle in both the 2005 and 2007 playoffs mean nothing this week, Seattle's recent failure on the road in the postseason also means little. The new car smell on both of these teams renders prior results somewhat meaningless. Enjoy every second of it. Regardless of predictions and odds, the truth is that the Redskins can win this game. It says here that on the strength of a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, the Redskins will secure a 34-24 victory.