LANDOVER, Md. - As Washington Redskins fans and players alike tensely looked up at the Fed Ex Field scoreboard to catch a glimpse the game's decisive fumble by Arizona Cardinals receiver Chansi Stucky that sealed a 22-21 victory on Sunday, everyone in the building realized the Redskins got away with one.
Washington saved themselves from, well, themselves. Despite outgaining the Cardinals in yards, red zone trips and time of possession, they still nearly gave the game away. It's that recipe for a Redskins loss that the team has tasted over the years, and one they almost had to indulge in yet again Sunday.
It's quite a familiar script. The Redskins outgain the opposition on the stat sheet and are given multiple opportunities to deliver the fatal blow, yet allow the opposing team to come back into the game. After the game, they are left to explain how they let one slip away.
"[It was] ‘Man, here we go again,' sai Santana Moss, who's seen his Redskins lose this way an incalculable amount of times in recent years. "That's what we said in years past."
That familiar scenario was oh-so-close to happening yet again for the Redskins on Sunday. After Larry Fitzgerald caught what looked to be a 73-yard dagger of a touchdown reception that gave Arizona a 21-13 lead, the Cardinals looked ripe for the kill.
Yet they did something they've rarely done over the years: they rose up when they absolutely had to do so. They finished with an offensive flurry, as Rex Grossman and the offense scored the game's final nine points to give them a 22-21 lead that would stick. The defense then bounced back as they closed the game out by forcing Stuckey's fumble.
"We would have lost this game in previous years, obviously," linebacker Brian Orakpo said of his team's resolve. "We didn't finish very well last year, [particularly] in the fourth quarter."
But part of forging a new identity is producing different results in similar situations, something the Redskins accomplished Sunday. Even with all the issues on Sunday, that might be the most positive development for the team's psyche going forward.
"You are going to adversity throughout the year," Grossman said. "And in the NFL it's how you handle it. I think we handled it today."
Redskins players to a man have been preaching for some time now that there's been a newfound, palpable feeling of belief in their locker room. But given the team's recent history of starting the season fast and fading late, it's not difficult to find most observers being skeptical. The fact is, it's easy to feel like your team is special in Week 2.
"That [belief]'s not a load of bull," defensive lineman Adam Carriker said. "To me, that's the difference in teams that win and lose a lot of times. Especially close games, which we always seem to be in."
"We know we have a long way to go," London Fletcher added. "[But] the thing we can be happy about is the character of the football team."
Without a doubt, this was a character win for a ballclub that hasn't earned a ton of them over the years. But in order for them to take the next step, it's quality wins that they'll have to produce on a consistent basis. If they can learn to do that in 2011, it could keep this Redskins team a place no one thought they'd be after two weeks: atop the NFC East standings.
It's hard to tell what type of team these Redskins are yet. What's been revealed through two weeks is the team's upgraded talent in certain areas to go along with their quiet confidence. But until they can pair that resolve with a complete effort in all phases of the game, it'll be hard for them to be taken seriously as a team that can win this year.
"[After the game] you look at the film, and you look at the things you did poorly," head coach Mike Shanahan sai of the gutty win. "[And then] you share with your football team that you're not going to be able to win these games like this all the time. [We] got to eliminate those mistakes."