The spirit of RFK Stadium is back -- even if the midfield stands at FedEx Field don't bounce.
The Washington Redskins' first run at the playoffs in five years has fans giddy. After the Redskins beat the Baltimore Ravens 31-28 in overtime on Sunday, the postseason really seems like a possibility. With four straight victories and three mediocre opponents remaining, fans are remembering 1982 to 1991, when the team seemed to own the late-season stretch.
The diesel horn in the parking lot is back. Bands clad in burgundy and gold play live music amid tailgaters. The upper deck of a cavernous stadium is filled once more. These things haven't happened regularly since the Redskins left RFK in 1997.
After years of no luck, bad players and endless losing, Washington is getting the breaks. The Redskins lost their star quarterback and watched their rookie backup throw for the tying touchdown and run for a two-point conversion. They had a lost fumble overturned by inches that likely would have ended the game in Baltimore's favor. Their rookie kicker has made his first 14 kicks, including the game-winner Sunday.
These kind of things didn't happen for the Redskins in the past 20 years. If there was a way to blow a game, Washington did it and did it often.
But the Redskins are 7-6 after the overtime win, which followed a 17-16 victory over the New York Giants on "Monday Night Football," a Thanksgiving triumph in Dallas and a blowout of nemesis Philadelphia. It's Washington's best month since a 4-0 finish to the 2007 regular season sent the Redskins to the playoffs.
"I was waiting for this kind of season," receiver Santana Moss said. "The talent has been here for years, but we didn't have a team. I think that's what coach [Mike Shan?ahan] has been trying to do the last few years."
Indeed, the Redskins have young talent. Quarterback Robert Griffin III might be an NFL MVP candidate as a rookie. Fellow rookie Alfred Morris has 1,228 yards rushing. Rookie cornerback Richard Crawford, returning punts for the first time, set up the winning field goal with a 64-yarder.
Suddenly, FedEx is filled with Griffin jerseys, the NFL's No. 1 seller. The crowd of 81,178 stayed to the end instead of leaving when Baltimore moved ahead 28-20 with 4:47 remaining. Fans knew Griffin still could rally the Redskins. When he was hurt scrambling, the crowd waited for Kirk Cousins to make a play, and he did -- an 11-yard touchdown pass and conversion run despite having no time to warm up.
Fans have reinvested in the Redskins just three years after a ticket holder revolt led to a half-filled stadium and vice president Vinny Cerrato's firing. (Wizards fans take note.) Young fans hearing stories of bobbing midfield stands at RFK during the Super Bowl years no longer think they're mythical tales of Camelot.
The last month has convinced fans of the team's turnaround. And now, maybe, the season finale against Dallas will be the gateway to another postseason.