When things are going badly, it seems that everything snowballs. One bad play begets another, a tipped pass becomes an interception, and penalties always seem to come at the worst possible time.
Conversely, when a team has momentum on their side, it seems like nothing can go wrong.
Right now, the Redskins are on a hot streak, and the team might ride it all the way to the playoffs.
No play better symbolizes the current streak the Redskins are on than the first touchdown the team scored on Monday night against the New York Giants. With Robert Griffin III running an option approaching the Giants’ endzone, the rookie star was hit hard and fumbled the ball.
Most of the time in that situation, the defense recovers the fumble. Only this time, the ball bounced perfectly to wide receiver Josh Morgan, who scooped it up and ran it in for a touchdown.
The play was a fluke, but in a narrow 17-16 victory over the Giants, the Skins needed all the breaks they could get. RG3 and coach Mike Shanahan joked that the play worked the same way it did in practice, but anyone watching could tell it was luck.
Luck can deliver wins, and winning builds confidence. The Skins are still no shoe-in for the playoffs—they’re a game behind the Giants with four games remaining—but every team in the NFL has taken notice of what this young Skins team has been able to do.
Over the past three games, Washington beat its three division rivals. In turn, the Skins improved their record from 3-6 to 6-6, and are in the thick of the division race and within striking distance of the final Wild Card berth in the NFC.
Bigger than a playoff berth this season, RG3 is learning how to win tight games in the NFL. Winning in the pros is as much learned as it is athletic. Beating division foes, two in nationally televised affairs, will accelerate Griffin’s already accelerated career path.
For the first time in two decades, the future is bright for the Redskins.
It goes beyond just the uber-talented Griffin; rookie running back Alfred Morris seems like a Pro Bowl runner. Despite missing some games with injuries, receiver Pierre Garçon is as explosive an option as the Skins have had arguably since Gary Clark.
A month ago, the discussion centered on what was wrong with the Redskins. Three games later, DC is trying to figure out playoff possibilities. That’s only possible with momentum on the side of Burgundy and Gold.
The question now for the Skins turns to the Baltimore Ravens. Regardless of whether a rivalry exists with the DC and Baltimore franchises, Sunday’s game is increasingly important for both squads.
Washington needs to keep winning to stay in the playoff hunt. And the Ravens, after a surprising loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers last week, need a win, as well. Rarely would a loss to the Steelers be a surprise, but Pittsburgh lined up third-string quarterback Charlie Batch under center against the Ravens.
The stakes are high for Sunday’s game, which is how December football should be. Over the past 20 years, not much Redskins football has mattered this late in the year.
Things have changed fast for the Skins. That’s called momentum.
Find JP Finlay on Twitter @jpfinlay.