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Looks Like Someone Has a Sixpack of the Mondays

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It's Victory Monday in Washington, heading into a game that will decide the NFC East. Quite the turnaround in Redskins Park!

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1. It was December 2, 2007, and the Redskins were hosting the Buffalo Bills. Entering the game, the Skins were 5-6, riding a three-game losing streak and were desperately trying to rebound from the tragic murder of its best player, Sean Taylor. I remember sitting in the stands that day and the emotion from the players and the fans and I remember Joe Gibbs doing his best to lead this team past the kind of adversity you just don't expect to have to deal with when you sign up to coach. After leading much, if not all, of the game, the 4th quarter was everything you had come to expect from Joe Gibbs in his second tenure: the Redskins were clinging to a lead, and it was anyone's guess if they would have enough in the tank to hold off their opponent until the final whistle. Then...we called the second timeout. The ensuing unsportsmanlike penalty gave Rian Lindell a closer look at the posts, moving him up from a 51-yard kick to a 36-yard attempt. As the stadium emptied out ahead of Lindell's game-winning kick, I sat glued to my seat. I wouldn't leave. In my mind, it was the end of the season, and I had to see the final know, for closure. (At 5-7, that Redskins team had a laundry list of reasons to call it a day and close up shop. Instead, they fought back to 7-7, and earned a playoff spot with a 9-7 record.) Yesterday, as the stadium emptied ahead of the Redskins sure-win, I decided to sit tight and watch until the end. Similar to needing to watch what I thought was the end of that 2007 season, yesterday I felt that the final whistle signified the end of something else. To me at least, yesterday's game closed a chapter in Washington Redskins history. This is not to suggest we have "arrived." Far from it. There is a lot of work to do this season, starting Saturday night. Instead, I would assert that after 14 games, certain truths have come to light. These truths paint the picture of a team and franchise that appear to be heading on an entirely different trajectory than before.

2. You all know I like to heap praise on McLovin (Scot McCloughan). For every home run he hit in the draft though, it is worth noting that he has come up just slightly short on some of his free agent picks. We're not talking about Albert Haynesworth-size misses, and nobody is blaming him for Chris Culliver's injuries this season. Stephen Paea has been underwhelming this year, and safety continues to be a work in progress. Still, when you look at the Washington roster, there is talent--Bruce Allen and Mike Shanahan deserve some credit here. What previously looked like a lame duck season for Jay Gruden all of a sudden looks like a quasi-coming out party. We had questions at quarterback coming into the year, and those questions have been all but answered at this point. I think we are all excited about going to Philadelphia and waxing the Eagles on national television, but perhaps we should be equally excited about the team we are going to get to watch for some time to come. The close of that game yesterday--at least in my humble opinion--was the end of what we have come to know and identify with this team through all the shit that has gone down over the last decade or longer. And you know what, I don't think I am overstating that.

3. Happy Victory Monday, y'all!! I want to congratulate Rachel K. in this space. She was the Cheerleader of the Game yesterday and I thought she really came ready for her moment. I want to say happy birthday to Jay, who turned 40 at our tailgate yesterday. I want to welcome back my dad to FedEx, who made the long trek to the game yesterday after a few years since giving up his season tickets. To my friend Grace, who came to her first Redskins game yesterday, you should know it hasn't always been like that, and you are now required to come to every game from now on (you should make sure your mom drinks excessively before all future games as well...when she brings it, the Redskins win).

4. What a week we have in front of us...the meat of the holiday season arriving simultaneous to the opportunity for us to clinch the division. A win in Philly this Saturday night would send the nation's capital into a full-fledged fervor, while pouring massive quantities of gasoline on the fire that Chip Kelly has started at The Link. And again, it's a directional thing: the Redskins are pointed at bigger and better things for this year and beyond, while the Eagles are potentially somewhat dangerously close from at least considering starting over. (That said, I expect Chip Kelly to be back next season.) The Giants look to be at the end of the Tom Coughlin era, and the Cowboys are playing Kellen Moore at quarterback. (Uhhhh....the very same Kellen Moore I adamantly insisted we draft? Yes, that one.)

5. Let's not get ahead of ourselves on this game though--to suggest the Eagles can't beat us on Saturday night is foolish. To me, what I am most looking for is the attitude of the team when they leave the tunnel and enter the field this week. The win yesterday at least felt as big for the players as it did the fans. I got the sense I was joined in my above assessment by lots of guys in that locker room. Having never played in the NFL (yet) I can't say that I know just how hard it is to achieve what the Redskins achieved yesterday and then suit up a week later and play for something even bigger. It can't be easy, but that is the nature of the least it is when you are doing more than playing out the string. The veterans need to stand up this week and set the tone. A soft start in a game of this magnitude tends to bleed from a below-average week in practice. I like that Jay Gruden has already issued the challenge to his first-place team to act the way a first-place team is supposed to act. That means winning the one game that seals it all up.

6. I wanted to close with this, to ensure nobody thought I was putting the cart in front of the horse. A lot is already being said about a potential clash with the Seattle Seahawks in the opening round of the playoffs. Listen, the Seahawks have earned the right to be feared in the postseason. Hell, they have gotten there by stepping over our dead carcass three times already. What else can you say about them besides they are a great defense, with a solid offense led by a heady quarterback (the very same guy I wanted to compete with Kellen Moore for our starting job...hahaha, let's move on people). THAT SAID...WHO WANTS TO COME AND PLAY THE TEAM THAT HAS BEEN DRESSING IN REDSKINS UNIFORMS AT FEDEX LATELY? I mean, the Redskins team that went 6-2 at home this season should fear no beer team in this league. The guy that's been wearing the #8 jersey in Landover this season is an assassin. Gruden's play-calling has not been on point on the road as much as it has been at home this year. I understand that we will be home underdogs in the first round of the playoffs (not a jinx because I have been saying we are going to host a game here for the last two months), but try and remember just who this team is at FedEx: a winning team. The proof is in the box scores. Sorry I'm not sorry for being a home underdog in the playoffs! Winning your division is where it's at in this league, and the Redskins are about to enjoy the fruits of those labors!

Have a great Victory Monday everyone, please enjoy your holiday week and let's take this game on Saturday night seriously.