WASHINGTON (AP) — The magnitude of Jay Gruden’s first big win as the Washington Redskins coach is nearly impossible to gauge.
His team was down to its third quarterback and was being mocked nationwide. A prime-time visit to its first-place division rival would only validate all the struggles from the first seven weeks and make everyone even more ansty to see Robert Griffin III return.
It’s always somethin’ to beat the Dallas Cowboys, but this was somethin’ else.
“I read somewhere that after we lost our fifth game that we’re playing meaningless games from here on out, which is pretty far from the truth,” Gruden said Tuesday. “We wanted to come out against Tennessee and get a win and obviously come out and compete against Dallas on Monday Night Football and prove that we aren’t dead.
“We still have a pulse. Our heart is still beating, and we have a lot to play for still — and that’s what that game meant for us.”
The Redskins’ 20-17 overtime victory gave them their first NFC East win since beating Dallas in last week of the 2012 regular season. They now have back-to-back wins for the first time since then. They also played with a passion not seen since — you guessed it — the last week of the 2012 regular season.
“Success can really do wonders for players’ psyches,” Gruden said. “They come in with a little bit of a bounce in their step and ready to roll.”
As outlandish as it seemed 48 hours ago, a .500 mark could be on the horizon for Washington (3-5). Its next two games are against the Minnesota Vikings (3-5) and, after a bye, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-6).
“For us to look past the Vikings at 3-5 would kind of be pretty stupid,” Gruden said. “This is a huge game for us — they all are — because we dug ourselves into this hole. We were 1-5, and we’ve got to pretty much win, win and win often to have a chance.”
Gruden’s big dilemma continues to be his quarterbacks. Griffin is eager to return from the dislocated left ankle suffered in Week 2 — he said Monday he’d been targeting the Cowboys game — but Colt McCoy is completing 86 percent (36 for 42) of his passes and recovered from Monday’s shaky start with a strong second half and overtime.
Gruden reiterated Tuesday that Griffin will be the starter when at “100 percent,” but that it’s very much a judgment call among the doctors and coaches as to when the third-year QB reaches that benchmark.
“I think Robert is very, very, very close,” Gruden said. “We just have to decide if he’s ready. Physically I think he’ll be ready to go. The doctors are feeling pretty good about it. They still want to see him run around this week until they make a final determination as far as clearing him, but I just want to make sure he feels good in the pocking moving forward with everything.”
So much that has gone wrong this season went right for the Redskins on Monday. Young cornerbacks David Amerson and Bashaud Breeland played in another dimension — Dez Bryant was held to a season-low 30 yards receiving — and every creative blitz drawn up by defensive coordinator Jim Haslett seemed to work perfectly — Tony Romo was sacked five times and missed a chunk of the game with a back injury.
Had McCoy been more organized getting the plays off — which can be largely attributed to having little work with starters in practice — and hit speedster DeSean Jackson in stride a couple of times, the game wouldn’t have required overtime.
“He wasn’t perfect by any stretch,” Gruden said. “But he competed his butt off and made some huge throws.”
The result is a feel-good vibe that hasn’t existed in the locker room in a long time.
“We heard a lot of crap being talked about us this week,” linebacker Ryan Kerrigan said. “We had no chance. We see the guys on CBS just laughing, saying, `Awww, the Redskins have no chance.’ I guess we’re laughing now.”