After Rex Grossman threw his second interception, running back Tim Hightower figured the Washington Redskins quarterback needed a word or two of encouragement.
"I went over to him and told him to keep throwing the ball," Hightower said. "He looked at me and kind of laughed - as if those plays never even happened."
Selective memory was much needed Sunday by Grossman and the Redskins, who surely needed to do a lot of laughing - if only to keep from crying during a game full of self-destruction that wiped out their statistical domination. They blew so many chances that they found themselves trailing the Arizona Cardinals by eight early in the fourth quarter before a late rally pulled out a 22-21 victory.
"We could have made it a lot easier on us," tight end Fred Davis said. "But at the end of the day, we got the win."
Grossman's fourth-and-3, 18-yard touchdown pass to Santana Moss got the deficit within two with 5:17 remaining. The 2-point conversion attempt failed, but Graham Gano's 34-yard field goal with 1:45 remaining gave the Redskins the lead. It wasn't until last-man-standing cornerback Byron Westbrook, on the field because of injuries to three defensive backs, forced Chansi Stuckey to fumble to end the Cardinals' final drive that the fans could finally celebrate a 2-0 record and begin the chant of "We Want Dallas" ahead of next Monday's visit to the Cowboys.
"You have to be able to close the door," coach Mike Shanahan said. "We didn't close the door. ... You've got to find a way to win even though you're going to make some mistakes. It's a little bit of a chess game sometimes, and we're lucky that we snuck one away from them."
Grossman completed 25 of 43 passes for 291 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions and earned his first fourth-quarter comeback win since 2007. Hightower, traded by the Cardinals shortly after the end of the NFL lockout, ran for 96 yards on 20 carries and started a scuffle that netted a 15-yard roughness penalty against his old team. Davis had another big game, with six catches for 86 yards and a touchdown. The Redskins amassed 455 yards.
But when Kevin Kolb, letting go of the ball before getting his helmet knocked off by blitzing linebacker London Fletcher, found Larry Fitzgerald for a 73-yard touchdown pass, the score was suddenly 21-13 in favor of the visitors with 10:58 to play. An Arizona offense that was so dormant in the first half had awakened.
The Cardinals (1-1) couldn't hold the lead, however, and they have now allowed 932 yards in just two games. It didn't help that one of their starting inside linebackers - Daryl Washington - missed the game with a strained right calf, and the other - Paris Lenon - played hurt after spraining his right ankle in the first half.
Asked about his team's late-game defense, coach Ken Whisenhunt replied: "When did we play good defense the whole day?"
"I never felt like we had them," said Kolb, who completed 17 of 30 passes for 251 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. "We had to keep the pedal down."
From the opening kickoff, the Redskins marched downfield, accumulating gobs of yards. They were inside the 40 on their first five possessions, but bad things kept happening. Grossman got picked off at the 2 and the 30. Left tackle Trent Williams had a false start at the 3. Gano had a field goal blocked at the 12.
The result was a tenuous 10-7 lead at halftime, despite outgaining the Cardinals 253-85 and holding a 21:31-to-8:29 advantage in time of possession. The points came on Davis' 1-yard touchdown catch, a play set up by A.J. Jefferson's pass interference penalty in the end zone, and a 26-yard field goal by Gano shortly after Williams' penalty.
Grossman's second interception, a high-and-wide pass tipped by receiver Anthony Armstrong, was returned 33 yards by Richard Marshall to Washington's 37. The Cardinals scored two plays later on tight end Jeff King's 21-yard catch-and-dive-for-the-pylon touchdown.
The Cardinals took a 14-10 lead in the third quarter on Beanie Wells' 2-yard trot into the end zone. Gano's 23-yard field goal pulled the Redskins within one early in the fourth before Fitzgerald's big play put the momentum solidly in Arizona's favor.
It wasn't long before the Redskins took it back.
"You can say what you want to about the Redskins of old," Moss said, "but coach Shanahan has come in here and set everybody's mind to prepare for stuff like that, to know that even when we're down and out, we can still hang in there and be what we want to be."