The Washington Redskins’ slow-developing, dramatic, last-minute 23-20 win over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday accomplished a lot.
It put the Redskins at 2-2, a .500 first quarter of the 2015 season, instead of 1-3 and having to face the explosive Atlanta Falcons offense next week on the road — the offense directed by that Shanahan kid.
It gave Kirk Cousins something he desperately needed — a comeback win on his resume, a calm and composed 90-yard drive that ended with a four-yard touchdown catch by Pierre Garcon with a little more than 30 seconds remaining in the game.
And finally, it stopped everyone from looking at head coach Jay Gruden and saying, “This guy is 5-15 in 20 games so far, so tell us why he is our coach again?”
Breathing room is the most valued commodity right now for Gruden and his coaching staff, because when the Redskins go 4-12 in a coach’s first year and start his second season going 1-3 — with having benched the owner’s good pal and favorite quarterback — the atmosphere at Redskins Park can be suffocating.
Now, the questions about the coach — and his hand-picked quarterback — become backburner issues while a win at home lights up the town for another week. But there are questions. Even the coach acknowledges that.
When asked about the early pressure his defense put on the Eagles, Gruden answered, “It was [there] for a little while. I think we had a little spurt there — third, early fourth [quarter], where we weren’t getting enough pressure, but you know, we needed to be more consistent.
“We’ve got to do a better job in the second half,” Gruden said. “Our third quarter offense, defense, leaves a little to be desired. … We’ve got a lot of work do coming out of halftime.”
Gruden is consistent about the need to be more consistent, particularly after leaving the locker room in the second half.
After the Week 1 loss to the Miami Dolphins at FedEx Field, Gruden said his team “didn’t come out with the same attitude” in the third and fourth quarters.
Well, here it is, Week 4, and still no answers. Anybody out there got any answers? Bueller? Bueller?
One answer may be that Gruden and company get outcoached with adjustments going into the second half. With a 13-0 lead over an Eagles team that looked as bad as bad can be — having the ball on offense for just 8:13 in the first half and just 95 yards of offense compared to Washington’s 185 yards — Philadelphia had no business being in this game, let alone climbing back to take a 20-16 lead into the fourth quarter.
This offense — with more offensive minds than you can shake a stick at between Gruden, offensive coordinator Sean McVay, offensive line coach Bill Callahan and quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh — should have more to show for it than just six touchdowns in four games. It’s averaging 18.3 points, which puts it among the worst teams in the league.
So far in the second half this year, Washington was shut out against Miami, scored one touchdown against the St. Louis Rams, scored 15 points against the New York Giants — who took an 18-6 lead into the fourth quarter, when they scored 14 points, in a 32-21 win — and Sunday’s 10 points.
So, except for the lackluster second-half play and the failure to score, Gruden’s doing just fine.
“We need to do a better job in the red zone,” Gruden said. “Maybe that’s pulling back the reins, maybe that’s allowing Kirk to take some shots in the end zone.”
Allowing Kirk to take some shots may be a little easier after what Cousins did in the game-winning drive. He completed 31 of 46 passes for 290 yards, one touchdown and — drum roll, please — no interceptions agains the Eagles.
“Coach Gruden challenged us last night to be resilient, and as we all know, all these games it seems comes down to the last couple of minutes, and you’re going to have your share of setbacks along the way — and we certainly had our fair share,” Cousins said. “But, we kept challenging each other to respond and be resilient.”
Resiliency is an admirable trait. Overcoming adversity is inspirational.
But who needs the heavy lifting?
“Having the ability to win in the fourth quarter, making a key drive at the end to win it, it’s great to see our quarterback and our entire team do that because we’re going to have other games that are going to be close like this,” Gruden said. “We’ll be down in the third or fourth quarter, we’re going to have to come back. It’s great to have this experience and know we can do it.”
Until Gruden and his coaching staff can figure out what goes wrong at half time, they may have plenty of experience at it.
• Thom Loverro is co-host of “The Sports Fix,” noon to 2 p.m. daily on ESPN 980 and espn980.com.