- The Washington Times - Monday, December 19, 2005

Football is an exercise in imperfection; the sheer number of players and possibilities — 11 to the umpteenth power — makes it so. So when the Redskins come up with an effort like they did yesterday, well, it’s something that belongs in a glass case.

“The game of our life,” Joe Gibbs called the 35-7 smackdown of the Cowboys. “I told the players, ‘There’s a good chance this will be one you remember … and one I remember.’”

Of course, effort hasn’t really been the issue with this team, not since Gibbs launched his rescue mission almost two years ago. The issue has tended to be one of execution, of results. For a night, though, everything worked the way it was diagrammed on the blackboard. For a night, the Redskins were the team their fans dreamed they’d be when Coach Joe, confetti cascading down on him, returned to Washington.

By halftime the score was 28-0. Less than five minutes into the third quarter, after yet another separating of Drew Bledsoe from the ball, it was 35-0. And the opponent wasn’t sad-sack San Francisco, it was hated Dallas — in the biggest game of the Second Gibbs Era.

Until Saturday, that is, when the first-place Giants come to town.

But let’s table discussion of that for a moment and focus on what has to be the best performance by the Redskins in a Scrum of Significance since … could it be the drubbing of Detroit in the ‘99 playoffs?

Not that there have been many of these games the past 13 years. There have been so few, in fact, that you almost forgot what they were like — the buzz during the week, the blood lust in the stands. Every December used to be that way, remember? (Perhaps not, if you’re 20 or younger.)

Two seasons ago the Cowboys came into FedEx Field trying to solidify a postseason berth and hammered the home team, 27-0. Yesterday, in a similar setting, it was Dallas that got drilled, that looked like it didn’t belong on the same field. If the Cowboys weren’t committing a penalty or turning the ball over, they were missing a block or whiffing on a tackle. Bill Parcells must have wondered last night — as Gibbs has on any number of Sundays — whether maybe he should have stayed retired.

What was so startling about the Redskins’ victory was its magnitude, its completeness. Except for the Niners, they haven’t given anybody a good whuppin’. Every week, it seems, they’ve been caught up in a 9-7, 14-13, 20-17, 21-19 battle to the last breath. They had beaten some good clubs, the Seahawks most notably, but hadn’t really demonstrated superiority over any of them — until yesterday.

“I think it was meant for us to experience all that hardship,” Joe Salave’a said. “It was part of the maturing process, of developing cohesiveness. You have those seesaw battles that shouldn’t be seesaw battles, and it makes you a better team.”

If it doesn’t break you first. The Redskins appeared to be teetering, doubting themselves, after losing three in a row — each one more gut-twisting than the last — to drop to 5-6. “We weren’t finishing games,” Renaldo Wynn said. “It just tears your heart out of your chest.

“So to not even let it get to that point today, to not even let it go down to a referee’s call at the end of the game or a last-second play … that’s huge.”

Darn right. Making the playoffs is, as much as anything, about separating yourself from the lesser teams in the league, the riffraff. But when you lose at home to a hopeless Oakland club and need a kickoff-return touchdown to eke out a 17-13 win over Arizona, it suggests there isn’t much difference between you and the bottom-feeders, and it certainly doesn’t do much for your self-confidence.

That’s why the wipeout of Dallas — the most one-sided Washington victory in the history of the series — was a breakthrough of sorts. Or rather, it could be if the Redskins can keep it going. Even Gibbs had to marvel at the mysteriousness of it all.

“This is the smoothest [his team has played] since I can remember, certainly in the last two years,” he said. “I can’t remember coming close to this.”

Smoothness is an elusive quality in football. There are so many things that militate against it — such as blitzing cornerbacks. But in the glory years, Coach Joe’s clubs had a certain smoothness, a sense of control amidst the mayhem, and they had it again yesterday. Was it just an aberration, an illusion, or was it something more?

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