After the Washington Redskins evened their record at 2-2 with a dramatic overtime victory against the Jacksonville Jaguars last month, feelings of exhilaration, relief and optimism filled Redskin Park the next day.
The Redskins promptly wasted that momentum by losing their next three games.
On Sunday, the Redskins moved to 3-5 with a thrilling win over the Dallas Cowboys. But the difference between the post-Jaguars Monday and the post-Cowboys Monday were striking.
There was no exhilaration yesterday because the Redskins are still below .500.
There was little relief because the defense allowed 378 yards and 10 third-down conversions.
And there was minimal optimism because the offense halfway through the season remains a work in progress.
"In any sport, if you can get momentum, it can work well for you and definitely give you confidence to keep on rolling," center Casey Rabach said. "But our backs are still against the wall because we didn't expect to be at this point."
With a minimum nine victories likely required for NFC postseason contention, the Dallas win will mean nothing if the Redskins don't win at Philadelphia (4-4) on Sunday. And it means nothing if its only purpose is masking the problems -- everything on defense, penalties and offensive inconsistency -- that still plague the Redskins eight games into the season.
"We have to go to Philadelphia and get a big win on the road," right tackle Jon Jansen said. "We still have a long ways to go."
A long way to go to get back into playoff contention and a short chance of making it happen.
In the past three seasons, only three teams -- Buffalo in 2004, Minnesota and Miami last year -- had losing first-half records but finished with winning overall marks. All three teams were 3-5 and finished 9-7. None made the playoffs.
Recent history suggests nine wins won't be enough. Since 2000, 17 teams have won nine games; only five reached the playoffs.
"We're happy we won, but it's like, 'We should have been doing this earlier,' " Wynn said. "We hadn't got it done the last couple weeks when our backs were against the wall."
Said center Rabach: "Every game is a one-game season right now, and that's the way we have to look at it -- don't look behind, don't look ahead and keep on plowing."
While simultaneously looking ahead, the Redskins must look behind to solve the plethora of problems that led to their disappointing first half.
Defensively, the Redskins rank 30th in yards allowed, 30th in passing, last in interception percentage, last in sacks a pass attempt, 26th in third-down situations and 23rd in scoring.
As in previous years, the Redskins have trouble getting to the quarterback and creating takeaways. They're on pace for only 24 sacks, their fewest since a 14-game 1970 season, and a measly four interceptions,, which would be the fewest in NFL history for a full season.
Wynn disputes the theory the Redskins relaxed after climbing out of an 0-2 hole to start the season.
"I don't think so at all," he said. "For whatever reason, it happened. We felt we should have won the Tennessee game. It didn't seem like we had the same kind of passion in that game from the first half to the second half, and the same thing happened in Indianapolis."
Offensively, the Redskins rank eighth in rushing (127.0 yards a game), which is more an example of how many teams concentrate on passing rather than running. The Redskins remain 21st in passing and are tied for 17th in scoring.
Only three teams coached by Joe Gibbs have had first-half losing records; all three failed to make the postseason.
"I don't think you ever know, but certainly at this point of the season and where we were, I thought our team certainly needed a lift, and this [victory] was an emotional lift," Gibbs said. "Will that mean anything when we go to Philly? I hope so."