- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 29, 2011


A patron behind me said aloud what most folks in the place surely were thinking — self included — as Rex Grossman leaned back and went long: “Why is he doing that?”

Yes, it was third-and-19 from midfield, but still. An underneath route with a little yardage after the catch was safer than going deep. We feared that “Rex Havoc” had another pick in him Sunday, which would’ve been his third, and we couldn’t escape visions of a defensive back cradling that bomb whenever it came down.

Surprise, surprise. For the second consecutive week Grossman was on target during a gotta-have-it drive in the fourth quarter.

The 50-yard touchdown to Anthony Armstrong with 6:18 left against Seattle wasn’t as dramatic as the 4-yard fade to Donte Stallworth with 14 seconds left against Dallas. But the latter merely forced overtime in what became the sixth consecutive loss; Armstrong’s emergence from witness protection produced the go-ahead score in the streak-snapping victory.

With it came shouts of joy and sighs of relief. Both had been scarce since Oct. 2, when the Redskins beat St. Louis and improved to 3-1, lamenting a late-game collapse at Dallas that kept them from a perfect record.

Going 1-6 in your past seven games is nothing to brag about. But the Seattle game was one of two left — Minnesota is the other — that looked fairly winnable. The Redskins easily could have flown across the country and fallen flat coming off the emotional overtime defeat a week earlier against the Cowboys.

The battle that Washington put up against its archrival was commendable, validating the old cliche about throwing out won-lost records, etc. While coach Mike Shanahan and his players pooh-poohed the notion of a moral victory, the nail-biter revived Redskins Nation.

Many observers thought the Dallas game could get ugly, disintegrate into a lopsided affair between teams headed in opposite directions. Yet given up for dead, the Redskins showed encouraging signs of life, as the offense tallied a season-high 24 points (linebacker Ryan Kerrigan had a pick-six in the 28-14 victory against the Giants).

Washington doesn’t have a heated rivalry with the Seahawks like it does with the Cowboys, but you’d never know based on the jawing and shoving.

If that’s what it takes for such spirited play from the Redskins, DeAngelo Hall should start a fight with the closest New York Jet before Sunday’s coin flip.

Shanahan doesn’t want to see any unsportsmanlike penalties or ejections, but he loves the fight his team has demonstrated in the past two games.

“Our players, believe me, they’re not going to take any crap,” he said during Monday’s news conference. “But you’ve got to be able to keep your poise, too. There’s a fine line. You’ve got to be competitive, but you have to be mentally tough to understand that most people see the second shot and you cannot cause your team to have a 15-yard penalty.”

The fact that the Redskins haven’t laid down speaks well of Shanahan, coming when he most needed even the smallest hint of progress. Little has gone right since the 3-1 start, and he deserves the lion’s share of blame.

Shanahan didn’t cause the slew of injuries, but he did choose the reserve players — as well as the starting quarterbacks and offensive coordinator. Regressing from last season’s 6-10 record would overshadow some of his success stories (Kerrigan, Roy Helu, Perry Riley), and give rise to questions about his overall suitability — fair or not.

Give him credit for ending the John Beck experiment after three miserable games and going back to Grossman, who at least gives the Redskins a fighting chance when he doesn’t knock them out himself.

Shanahan has committed to the “I believe in John” tune and can’t stop singing it now. But he risked losing the respect — and continued effort — of his veterans if he kept playing Beck.

After a forgettable performance against Miami, Grossman had Washington in position to beat Dallas and Seattle, engineering an offense against the latter that topped 400 yards for just the second time this season.

More importantly, the Redskins came away with a win, finally, which felt like it saved the season.

“That’s what you’re in this game to do, to win,” Shanahan said. “At the same time, when you’re on a football team that’s giving you everything they’ve got, you feel good. I’ve been on some teams [and] we’ve been in losing streaks and you don’t feel like you’ve got the type of effort you’re hoping for.

“I feel good about the character of this football team.”

Everyone else can feel good about it, too.

At least for another few days.

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