FEDEX FIELD – So much has changed in the 13 months since the Redskins last won a home game at FedEx Field.
The quarterback, the coach, the atmosphere around an organization that thought it was a playoff contender after a 20-17 win against the Dallas Cowboys on Oct. 21, 2018, before everything fell apart.
The streak had reached nine home losses in a row. Four of those defeats were by 24 points or more. Seven of them were by double digits. If the crowds at FedEx Field have dwindled into apathy, there’s your reason. Opposing fans routinely outnumber Redskins fans in their own home. The whole thing is sad.
For one week at least you can forget about all that. Winning is a temporary antidote, but a necessary one. Washington was 1-9 entering Sunday’s game against the Detroit Lions. It is 2-9 now after Dustin Hopkins’ field goal with 16 seconds to go provided a 19-16 victory.
“We needed it big,” right tackle Morgan Moses said. “Just to change the culture. We’re always talking about changing the culture.”
In the grand scheme of things, this win does much to change that. Let’s be real. The Redskins will have a new coach next season. Key veterans who have been part of this team for years will be cut or traded or retire or sign elsewhere.
The track record for “new eras” in Ashburn is also an unmitigated disaster under owner Dan Snyder, but for better or worse they are embarking on a new one. It will take much more than a solitary home win over another bad team to make fans believe.
Look back to that Dallas win 13 months ago. The Redskins improved to 4-2 and won again the next week against the New York Giants. They weren’t a Super Bowl contender, but a second NFL playoff berth in four years was in play with a 6-3 record after a win at Tampa Bay on Nov. 11.
Then disaster struck: Quarterback Alex Smith’s broken leg in the Houston game, which changed his career and the direction of the franchise. The Redskins lost 15 of the next 17 games. It turned out, they weren’t close to a playoff team at all.
Jay Gruden was fired. Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams was diagnosed with cancer during the offseason and refused to play under a medical staff he believes misdiagnosed that condition for years. Team president Bruce Allen has endured withering criticism on all fronts.
It is an implosion every bit as bad as the end of the Mike Shanahan regime in 2013 and the Jim Zorn embarrassment in 2009 and the Steve Spurrier experiment in 2003 and the Marty Schottenheimer feud in 2001.
Sunday’s game was a close wrought thing. The Lions led 16-13 in the fourth quarter and had the ball late in the game with a chance to win before an interception near midfield gave Washington and rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins a chance. They finally took advantage of it.
“No offense to anybody out here, I don’t seek out the media or look at the stats to see how we’ve done,” Hopkins said. “So it’s crazy to hear because I was unaware of how long it’s been. I’m glad we could do that for the fans that were here. I know it’s tough for them to stick around. I’m thankful for the people who have.”
One of them was a mid-20s Redskins fan in section 106, far too young to remember the glory days let alone the early drama of the Snyder era. He ripped off his shirt on a windy, 40-degree day. He screamed and yelled. He ran down the steps and back up to his seat after every Dwayne Haskins completion, after every Adrian Peterson or Derrius Guice run. He played air guitar. He implored everyone else to do the same.
It’s been a long time since we’ve seen that kind of passion at FedEx Field. Was our dude chemically altered? Absolutely. He was on mega drugs. But the Redskins made him happy and for 13 months any sense of joy or purpose was missing from this place.
And so Hopkins hit a game-tying field goal from 42 yards and then the game-winner from 39. The thousands of Lions fans in blue sitting behind the Detroit sideline filed out of the stadium sadly.
That was different than the thousands of Giants, Eagles, Cowboys, Bears, Patriots, 49ers and Jets fans before them in the past year who have left FedEx Field strutting and celebrating and taunting and sometimes just feeling sorry for Redskins fans. For once, no pity was necessary on Sunday. The Redskins, at long last, had a home win. It might not mean much more than that. For now, that’s enough.
“It’s oversimplified, but the fans deserve it, the organization deserves it,” Hopkins said. “We want to put that product on the field and do well and get a lot more of those but they just haven’t come. Hopefully we use this to build for the future.”
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