As the Washington Redskins' offense took the field for the final time on Sunday and lined up in the Victory Formation in preparation for kneeling out a 22-21 win over the Arizona Cardinals, the chants of "WE WANT DALLAS" were clearly audible throughout the stadium, as well as on television sets across the region.
The Redskins sent a message to the league that they will be contenders this season. They will no longer be the door mats of the NFC East. You want to beat the Redskins? Not this year. Not without a fight.
The fans sent a message too. FedEx Field is no longer a place where any team can visit and expect to leave victorious. FedEx Field is where Redskins Nation resides, and Redskins Nation is loud and proud; thrilled to finally have something promising to cheer about.
The "We Want Dallas" chant was probably the loudest that stadium has been since Philadelphia Eagles fans stopped celebrating Michael Vick's unbelievable performance here on Monday Night Football last season.
For years we've heard about this mysterious phenomenon known as home field advantage. Like a Bigfoot sighting, or a funny episode of Two And A Half Men, it was something we'd always heard was possible, but never actually witnessed ourselves.
We've seen home field advantage in other places, but only very rarely in D.C. Not even during Capitals playoff games does the familiarity of playing at home seem to give much of an advantage. It did on Sunday though.
Home field advantage won't necessarily win you a whole lot of football games, but it certainly helps. When your team has just kicked the go-ahead field goal and the defense needs to make a stop, home field advantage can help confuse the opponent. Home field advantage can help force a fumble. It doesn't deliver wins single-handedly, but in a one-point game, any team would want home field advantage on its side.
Unfortunately, FedEx Field isn't acoustically designed to keep all noise within its confines like some stadiums across the league. That just means that Redskins fans will have to work even harder. We may never reach the volumes of the famously loud fanbases of the Seattle Seahawks and Seattle Sounders. Sports fans in Seattle are so loud that the Supersonics had to leave just to give their eardrums a rest. (That's a joke). But you don't necessarily have to be that loud to give your team an advantage. You just have to be passionate. You have to be inspired.
There's something about this 2011 Redskins team that has inspired its fans. And we're not just talking about a few wary souls who call in to talk radio shows and predict the Redskins to go 11-5 every single effing year. We're talking about the entire fanbase. We're talking about Redskins Nation, which has embraced the underdog nature of this team, led by the ultimate underdog himself Rex Grossman.
Perhaps its the refreshing lack of drama at Redskins Park after decades of turmoil. Perhaps its the team's ownership quietly fading into the background. Perhaps its the sudden youth movement that is taking over the team, or the fact that rookie sensation Ryan Kerrigan looks more like the guy who held the door open for you at the gym this morning than an NFL linebacker. There's something about this particular Redskins team that makes us all want to cheer just a little bit louder.
After starting the season 2-0 with two wins at home, the Redskins take to the road on Monday night to face the Dallas Cowboys, a team that already knows what home field advantage is all about. We want Dallas, and we're going to get Dallas. Without the advantage of playing at home, we may now get to see if this team really is as different as we think it might be.