The time to sneak up on teams and surprise them is now over for the Redskins. It was great while it lasted, and it got them, and their fans, a much-needed win over their most hated rival.
But with that victory, the Redskins have lost their ability to go into games as the double -digit underdogs (12-point dogs to the Cowboys last week) and come away with a win, leaving the opponent looking more dazed and confused than Cubs’ fans are this morning. Okay, well maybe not to that extent, but you get the point.
Speaking of Cubs fans, how many times did TBS pan to the depressed and shocked Chicago faithful in the seventh inning? I counted 684.
In the thousands of power rankings that exist, the Redskins found themselves in the top 10 of the majority—if not the top five. All week, national radio talked about the emergence of Jason Campbell. Television networks discussed and overanalyzed every aspect of the team, from its running back to its seventh-round rookie safety. There is nothing left to say about Washington at this point that somebody already hasn’t.
Good football team—clicking on all cylinders—improving every week—smart defense—good special teams—confident squad—contender in the NFC East.
Well, now the Redskins' young squad will have to adjust to another couple of dynamics. Winning when they are expected to win and being able to take the opponent’s best shot.
I don’t remember where I heard it, but I faintly recall some coach or manager talking about the stages of a team growing up. The first was thinking you can win. The second was knowing you can win, and the third was winning when you’re supposed to. I paraphrased that, but I think I got the gist of it.
The Redskins are somewhere in the middle of the second and third phase. Chris Cooley said it best on local radio the Monday after the Dallas game with, “We go into fourth quarters now with a confidence that we are going to win the game. It wasn’t like that before.”
That being said, the Philadelphia Eagles are also a team that sits comfortably in the third phase and have for quite some time. They know that the young Redskins are going to come in with some confidence this Sunday and try to punch them in the mouth early.
They know that the 'Skins will try to stuff Portis down the Eagles' throat and attempt to let Moss run wild in that secondary. They know that the 'Skins think that this game will be another victory, en route to taking over the division.
They know all that.
What Washington will have to adjust to now is taking the best shot that a very capable and talented football team has, in a hostile environment, with a multitude of people watching.
Make no mistake about it; there are still a lot of people not sold on the Redskins, and rightfully so.
They are waiting for Washington to slip up and show that these last three wins were nothing more than a fluke, similar to that of the Detroit Lions last year.
Whether of not Washington will be able to silence another set of critics this week remains to be seen.
What I will be more interested in seeing is how this team responds to another aspect of the learning curve. Jim Zorn should be given a lot of credit for having his team show signs of understanding and growth. But are they really as gifted and quick to grasp as we all seem to think they are?
How are they going to react if they fall behind early, and the Eagles fans are jumping all over them? Will they stand up, come together, and throw a punch back? Or will they curl into the fetal position and talk in the postgame about how they left opportunities on the field—something you hear from the likes of Oakland and Cleveland.
Last week, Washington didn’t have this dilemma to face. They didn’t have to worry about how to react or respond to high expectations. This week, they do.
They say with every victory comes a little bit of loss, usually results of a sacrifice made in order to achieve success. The Redskins sacrificed their anonymity. What helped them win in Week Four might sting them a little bit in Week Five—ironically enough, all thanks to Dallas.