You think these Redskins games are tough on you? Heck, Joe Gibbs can't even bear to watch.
He had his head down -- and perhaps his eyes shut -- when rookie Nick Novak kicked the winning field goal in overtime Sunday against the Seahawks. "Saying a prayer," he explained. He was feeling similarly religious a few minutes earlier when Seattle's Josh Brown attempted a 47-yard boot on the final play of regulation, though he did glance up at the last second to make sure the ball had collided with the left upright.
The Redskins may be 3-0 and in first place, but Coach Joe isn't sure he'll make it to Thanksgiving. "If we play 16 of these," he said, "I probably won't be here -- from about [game] 10 on. Somebody else'll have to do it."
Paging the ghost of George Allen!
They just don't seem possible, these first four weeks of the Redskins' season. A two-point victory ... followed by a one-point victory ... followed by an overtime victory. Beating the Bears without crossing the goal line. Not scoring against the Cowboys until the last four minutes. Turning the ball over at their own 33 with 49 seconds to go Sunday -- and living to tell about it.
It has, indeed, been an incredible Series of Fortunate Events. But it's not the first time a Gibbs team has pulled this kind of stuff. In 1982, another year of modest expectations, the Redskins had more close calls than a Florida election commissioner, more unexplained phenomena than an episode of "X-Files" -- and wound up winning the Super Bowl.
Most of the details have been lost in the haze of history, so allow me to refresh everyone's memory:
Week 1 (Redskins, 37, Eagles 34, in overtime): Mark Moseley, almost beaten out for the kicking job by 11th-round pick Dan Miller, boots a 48-yarder as the clock runs out in regulation to send it into OT.
Week 2 (Redskins 21, Bucs 13): In pouring rain, Tampa Bay's quarterback fumbles four center snaps in the first half, and the Redskins recover three of them. The Bucs' QB? None other than Doug Williams.
Week 4: (Redskins 13, Eagles 9): Tony Franklin's extra-point try after Philly's only touchdown clangs off the left upright (the same one the Seahawks' Brown hit Sunday). Eagles coach Dick Vermeil calls it "the difference in the ballgame. ... We couldn't just go for a field goal at the end."
Week 6: (Redskins 12, Cardinals 7): Moseley misses his first field goal attempt from 37 yards, but the Cards are penalized for lining up offside. Given a second chance, he knocks through a 32-yarder -- and three more three-pointers as the Redskins win without a TD.
Week 7 (Redskins 15, Giants 14): Joe Theismann throws four interceptions in the first half, but his buddy Moseley comes to the rescue again, booting a 42-yarder through the snowflakes with four seconds left to put Washington in the playoffs and set an NFL record for consecutive field goals (21).
Week 8 (Redskins 27, Saints 10): Ken Stabler, New Orleans' regular quarterback, was hurt the week before, so the Saints had to start little-used Guido Merkens. You know it's your year when you get to go against a QB named Guido.
NFC Championship game (Redskins 31, Cowboys 17): Gary Hogeboom, who had thrown only eight passes in his NFL career, plays most of the way for Dallas after Danny White exits with a concussion in the second quarter.
Super Bowl (Redskins 27, Dolphins 17): Miami fails to complete a pass in the second half (David Woodley 0-for-9, Don Strock 0-for-3).
To summarize, the Redskins won by scores of 13-9, 12-7 and 15-14. They managed just three offensive touchdowns in a four-game stretch (Weeks 4 through 7) and went 3-1. They had a kicker who didn't miss a field goal try until the last weekend of the regular season.
And in the end, they hoisted the Lombardi Trophy.
Which raises an obvious question: Could it be happening again? I mean, Guido Merkens is retired, but Kyle Orton, the Bears' opening day starter, is a reasonable facsimile at this point. Also, 9-7, 14-13 and 20-17 sound an awful lot like 13-9, 12-7 and 15-14.
Here's another weird parallel: The Redskins had a bye week after their second game in 1982, too. (Actually, they had nine bye weeks -- the whole league did. The players went on strike. But that's just a technicality.)
Coach Joe brought up another unusual statistic yesterday. "I don't know how many teams have won three [straight] games," he said, "and been on the minus side of the turnover ratio [every time]."
No team, probably, since Alonzo Stagg blew up the first football -- lips pressed firmly against the pigskin.
"All three games [this season] came down to the last play, basically," said Gibbs, hardly believing it himself. "That may be the way we play all year."
If so, he should enjoy watching his team -- after he removes his blindfold and finally sits down to review the game tapes.