Now, with five critically important games to go, it's all about the details. It should've always been this way, of course, but what sounds good on paper doesn't always immediately manifest itself on the field. Sometimes, these things take time.
And for the Redskins, that meant nine weeks plus the bye. A 3-6 start has given way to two straight wins, none more important than Thursday's victory over the Cowboys. Washington now prepares for a Monday-night matchup with the NFC East leading Giants, a game that by itself won't change much, but it will give the 'Skins something they lacked for the last six weeks or so: confidence.
Rookie phenom Robert Griffin III somehow continues to exceed expectations, and the hope is that the rest of the team -- specifically, the defense -- can maintain some level of consistency down the stretch.
“We’re starting to hone in and just pay attention to detail and get the job done,” cornerback DeAngelo Hall said via the Washington Times. “It was nothing schematically that we changed or we decided to do this, decided to do that. Guys are just going out there making plays. We knew at some point the defense was going to have to step up, we was going to come around and get our bearings, and what better time than now?”
A lot of time is spent lamenting the Xs and Os, lambasting defensive coordinator Jim Haslett for his failed schemes, and pointing fingers at players who aren't performing. But Hall makes a good point: sometimes it's not about an intricately designed blitz. Sometimes it's as simple as, you know, going out and playing the game.
“It’s just about understanding what the game is about,” cornerback Josh Wilson added. “On defense, it’s about getting the ball back for the offense. If you do your responsibility, you have that opportunity to complete the mission and the get the ball back, we’ve been able to capitalize on it.”
Coach Mike Shanahan, meanwhile, is done leaving things to chance when it comes to getting the ball first. Typically, if the 'Skins win the opening coin toss, Shanahan will defer until the second half. Not anymore now that Washington has its eye on the prize.
“What I always do in playoff time is always take the ball," the coach said according to CSNWashington. "I’ve always done that. I just said, ‘Hey, you go in the playoffs and everything else really doesn’t matter. It’s your last game and you’re playing for it all.”
It makes you wonder why Shanahan doesn't have that mentality in Week 1, but that's a question for another time. For now, the 'Skins are focused on the five games in front of them because that's all that matters.
“We’re treating each game as your final game because you look at the records and know what you have to do,” Shanahan said. “That’s the way we approach it.”