Redskins aren't packing it in

November, 20, 2011
11/20/11
6:51
PM ET
DeMarco MurrayAP Photo/Evan VucciWashington was able to contain DeMarco Murray to just 73 yards on 25 carries in the loss to Dallas.
You know, all week I do these radio spots, and I did one in Dallas on Friday where they just kept trying to get me to say there was no chance the Washington Redskins could upset the Dallas Cowboys. But I cover the NFL, you see, and while certain segments of the league's fan base refuse to learn such week-to-week lessons as "Any team can win any game at any time," I tend to try and keep things in perspective. So I was giving the guys at "The Ben & Skin Show" a bunch of, "Well, of course there's a chance," and they were coming back at me with "Come on, you don't really think that," until I finally caved in and said the Cowboys would have to play a bad game and turn the ball over a bunch of times for the Redskins to have a chance.

Well, that's not exactly the way it worked out, but the Redskins sure did have a chance to upset the Cowboys on Sunday and derail Dallas' playoff hopes. They beat them up and down the field on special teams, hung tough on defense and made plays on offense for the first time in a month. Had Graham Gano's 52-yard overtime field goal attempt stayed just a bit truer, they'd have won it. The fact that it didn't leaves Redskins fans dealing with the pain of a sixth straight loss in a season gone off the rails as they lost 27-24.

The players feel the same way. They're disappointed. They feel like they let one get away. DeAngelo Hall blamed himself for letting Dez Bryant get open on that last drive and was so upset about it that he said he'd cut himself if he worked in the front office. A loss like this, where you miss by so little, hurts deeply, and I'm not expecting the Redskins or their fans to want to hear anything about moral victories.

But I think this game said a lot about the Redskins. First of all, it said a lot about their defense, which has been asked to do pretty much everything over the past month as the offense has effectively shut down. Hall's quotes in that link right there indicate a high level of disappointment rooted in the fact that the offense finally put enough points on the board to win and the defense couldn't make it happen. But that late breakdown aside, this was a gusty performance by the Redskins' defense. They bottled up running back DeMarco Murray, especially between the tackles, which is something no one else has been able to do yet. And while they still can't get anything going in the run game no matter which running back they rotate in and out of there, Rex Grossman showed why he should be the starting quarterback ahead of John Beck. He's a legitimate professional quarterback with the ability to hang in the pocket and make throws down the field, whereas Beck is not.

There's been a lot of talk in recent weeks among Redskins fans about next year's draft, and being okay with the idea of losing enough games to improve the position from which they can pick their quarterback of the future. I never understand the idea of fans wanting the team into which they pour so much emotion and energy to lose the games they play once a week, but oh well. You need to get your frustrations out some way, and if your hunt for silver lining forces you to look ahead and imagine Matt Barkley or Landry Jones in burgundy and gold, be my guest.

But if I were a Redskins fan, I'd be proud of my team for not playing that way. I'd be happy that they gave me a game today I thought they could win -- a gritty effort against a bitter rival that went right down to the end. Too many Redskins weeks recently have been devoid of hope. This one had it. This was a week in which Redskins fans could believe something great would happen. And even better, if you went into this game thinking they had no chance to win another game this season, there's no way you came out of it with the same feeling.

Professional athletes don't quit on seasons, and they don't concern themselves with their team's draft position in November. If I were a Redskins fan, I believe the most important thing to me would be to know that my team was still doing its best to win every game it played. I think you saw that Sunday. The Redskins are outmanned right now. They're missing too many key starters to be a contending team. They won't be making the playoffs. They're rebuilding, and you see the progress on defense. The offense needs to be the focal point of the next offseason, starting with quarterback, and I believe it will. In the meantime, what they did today was throw a serious scare into the Cowboys, who have more talent than they do at almost every position. And I think Redskins fans would do well to remember how much fun it was right up until the disappointing end.

Dan Graziano

ESPN New York Giants reporter

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