PHILADELPHIA — There's only one way an NFL team can string together six victories: By having the ability, as Robert Griffin III put it Sunday, to "win any kind of game we have to, whether it's high-scoring or low-scoring or a gut-wrencher" or (fill in the blank). The Washington Redskins are quickly developing that capacity — more quickly, perhaps, than anyone expected — and, as a result, are now on the cusp of an NFC East title.
This time, it was the Philadelphia Eagles who fell before them, 27-20 at Lincoln Financial Field. The outcome wasn't decided until the final snap, when Philly quarterback Nick Foles was called for intentional grounding on a play from the Washington 5 (and the required 10-second runoff killed what was left of the clock). You can't cut it much closer than that.
Especially when you consider that on two previous plays the Eagles easily could have scored the tying touchdown. On the first, Foles underthrew a wide open Jeremy Maclin in the end zone. And on the second, Evan Moore, their just-signed tight end, dropped an easy one as he neared the goal line.
But this is where the Redskins are right now. "They expect to win," Mike Shanahan said. They also know that, years from now, no one will care how they did it. All they'll care about is whether the Redskins made the playoffs.
What we've seen the past two weeks, though, has been particularly impressive. In Cleveland, after all, the Redskins won big even though their backup rookie QB, Kirk Cousins, had to direct the offense because of an injury to Griffin. And in Philadelphia, the Redskins won — by a narrower margin — even though RG3 ran a much more conventional attack because the coach didn't want to overtax the kid's still-recovering right knee.
So there were no hither-and-yon scrambles by Griffin, no quarterback draws, none of the usual derring-do. Adorned with a brace, he carried just twice for 4 yards, a Tom Brady kind of day — and concentrated instead on completing 16 of 24 passes for 198 yards and two touchdowns, with a single interception.
"We didn't do everything we would normally do," Shanahan said. But the Redskins still won — on the road, for the second straight Sunday. They won because they can "win any kind of game we have to." They can eke out a 17-16 victory over the New York Giants. They can survive in overtime against the Baltimore Ravens. They can win without a whole lot of muss or fuss (see the first meeting with Philadelphia or the Thanksgiving Day matchup with Dallas). And they can do what they did Sunday at the Linc: make just enough plays to keep their streak going and their destiny in their hands.
The first-year guys — Griffin, Alfred Morris (another 91 yards against the Eagles, pushing him over 1,400) and Cousins — have been so prominent, it's easy to overlook the contributions of the veterans, players such as London Fletcher and Santana Moss. Fletcher picked off Foles, his third INT in the past three games, to set up the go-ahead score (RG3's 11-yard flip to Josh Morgan). And Moss provided what turned out to be the margin of victory with an acrobatic 22-yard TD grab in the corner of the end zone.
It's one of the things that's so exhilarating about the kind of run the Redskins are on. The longer it lasts, the more players come out of the woodwork. Why, Sunday we had a Chris Cooley sighting. The fan favorite caught his first pass of the season, good for 8 yards and a first down on third-and-2.
Afterward, he said, "It's not a big deal to make a catch, but after being out some this season [following his release in training camp], this one felt good. I was able to get out there and make some good blocks to help the offense."
Everything means something now. In recent years, that hasn't often been the case, not by the time December rolled around. Indeed, it was like the roles were reversed Sunday. The Eagles were the Redskins, the team that usually has nothing to play for in Week 16, and the Redskins were the Eagles, the team that's usually gearing up for the postseason at the end of the year.
Now all that stands between the Redskins (9-6) and one of the great resurrection jobs in franchise history are the Cowboys (8-7). It's still possible, of course, for them to make the playoffs without beating Dallas, but who wants to do that way? Certainly no one in the Washington locker room, not after coming so far.
This much we know: Whatever kind of game it turns out to be, "high-scoring or low-scoring or a gut-wrencher," the Redskins will adjust, as they have each of the past six weeks. What we don't know is this: Does Dan Snyder regret removing those 10,000 seats from FedEx Field? Seems like he might be able to fill them when the Cowboys come to town.
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