It was such an unfamiliar sight: Washington Redskins fans streaming out of FedEx Field happy Sunday. They hadn't done that since Sept. 18, 2011, a home skid of eight games.
"To lose eight straight at home is unacceptable, for any kind of sport. We made that a point of emphasis this week to make sure we came out and protected our home turf," quarterback Robert Griffin said. "Even though I wasn't here for that whole time, I'm still a part of this organization, and I take on all those burdens along with the other guys."
Griffin, with his memorable 76-yard touchdown run and more, relieved the burden on the Redskins in the 38-26 victory over the Minnesota Vikings. In winning Sunday, they did more than just end a drought that linebacker Lorenzo Alexander called "disappointing and embarrassing."
The Redskins got an essential victory to stay afloat at .500 going into a two-game road swing against the New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers.
"It was a combination of being in every game we've been in in the fourth quarter and not pulling them out," cornerback DeAngelo Hall said. "It was a combination of not giving the home fans something to really cheer for. It was a combination of letting big plays happen to us. The guys just had it in their minds that they weren't going to be denied."
Coach Mike Shanahan claimed the home losing streak wasn't talked about internally, though its length still surprised some.
"I heard it and that kind of shocked me, like, 'Damn, an eight-game losing streak at home.' I didn't realize it," wide receiver Santana Moss said. "Just every time we're out there on the field, we're trying to play. Our main goal is just come out with a 'W.' But we didn't know why, we didn't understand why it was so tough to do it at home. I'm glad it's behind us and all we can do is move forward now."
That means traveling to face the NFC East-leading Giants, who just clobbered the San Francisco 49ers 26-3 on the road. And despite the Redskins' inconsistency through six games, Sunday's matchup is for first place in the division.
"It's bigger than that for us. They're a division rival, and we want to go out there and do the best we can against them," Moss said. "We know that they're the Super Bowl champs and all the other stuff comes with it. But it's New York, and they're in the NFC East, and we've got to take care of business."
By beating the Vikings, the Redskins joined a cluster of clubs at .500. Going into Monday night, nine teams were 3-3, including the entire AFC East.
"Every win is so valuable, and to go up against a great team like that, a 4-1 football team it kind of shows our guys that hey, man, we can do this against a team that's supposed to be a top-notch team," Hall said. "Going to New York and going to Pittsburgh the next couple weeks, it's not going to get any easier."
But with the home losing streak in the past, the Redskins can at least start on a path toward being competitive. As Alexander pointed out, "All the great teams that go to the playoffs, they go 8-0, 7-1 at home." The Redskins have not been able to call themselves great given their 5-13 record at FedEx Field under Shanahan.
Specifically worrying about home losses wasn't the idea.
"You focus on getting the job done, having good practices and doing the little things the right way and trying to finish a game. That's what we've been focusing on," the Redskins' coach said. "We talk about the things we do poorly and what separates the good teams from the average teams."
How the Redskins fare against the Giants and Steelers could go a long way toward determining whether they deserve to be deemed good, or just average. One thing Sunday did was point them in the right direction.
"Hopefully we can start a home-game winning streak," Griffin said, "or a winning streak, period."
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