LANDOVER,MD - With just under three minutes left to play in the game, there was a familiar tension in the air inside FedEx Field Sunday.
The Washington Redskins' 19 point-lead had been whittled down to just five by the Minnesota Vikings. And on a critical third-and-six, the home crowd feared the offense would fail to convert, giving Minnesota a chance to take a late lead and extend the Redskins' home losing streak to nine games.
They feared a reprise of a script that has played out more times than not throughout Washington's dry spell at home: The Redskins enjoy a comfortable lead early, allow the opposing team slowly chip away, fail to make a play to finish the game, and are only left to explain how yet another win slipped through their fingers.
But not this time.
Robert Griffin III recognized a Vikings blitz, found a running lane down the Redskins sideline, and turned what looked like a drive-extending first down into an electrifying 76-yard touchdown run. The game, for all intents and purposes, was over, as the Redskins went up 38-26 on the score.
"It was all a blur," Griffin said of the play. "[The mood of the Redskins' sideline] went from 'Stop, and stay in bounds' to 'Go - go for the touchdown.'"
It was a play that the Redskins had failed to make in previous games - the knockout punch that finally landed. The play that would essentially end the game before regulation expires, and allow both fans and players to breathe easy in the waning moments of the fourth quarter.
"Aw, man, that [play] was an emotional roller coaster," said left tackle Trent Williams. "I was screaming ‘Get out of bounds! Get out of bounds!', then he turned it up, and I was ecstatic from there. Seeing a guy with that type of speed from the quarterback position, you don't see that too often. He'll make history in this league."
"My heart has been going through it these past six games," added veteran wideout Santana Moss.
This time, there was no need to defend a Hail Mary attempt, as they did against the Saints, or go for a last-second field goal to win, as they had to in Tampa Bay. Instead, the Redskins got to run the victory formation for the first time all season.
But most importantly, Redskins players don't have to hear about a confounding home losing streak, one that lasted over a full calender year.
"I heard [about the streak], and it kinda shocked me like ‘Man, an eight game losing streak?'" Moss said."I'm glad it's behind us and all we can do is move on now."
"We know that to lose eight straight at home is unacceptable, for any kind of sport," added Griffin. "We made that a point of emphasis this week, to make sure we came out and protected our home turf."
With the win, the Redskins are now 1-2 at home for the season, and raised their record to a paltry 5-14 in the Shanahan regime. They'll return to Fed Ex Field in Week 9 against the Carolina Panthers, where they'll finally have the chance to start the type of streak required to become one of the league's better teams.
"We definitely have to defend our home field if we ever want to become a good team in this league," said linebacker Lorenzo Alexander. "All the great teams that go to the playoffs go 8-0, 7-1 at home. We have never been able to do that since I've been here."
"After showing up for over a year for our home fans, that's very disappointing so that was definitely something we were thinking about because we have the best fans here. When we start winning people will fill the stands and have it packed all the time."