It has been a trying season for Joe Gibbs--he called it the hardest year of his career on Monday.
But he had to be heartened by the Redskins' gutsy, gritty performance in last Thursday's 24-16 win over the Chicago Bears.
Consider the events from the game:
-- Shawn Springs was not even supposed to play. He had a painful back injury, but he decided to give it a try at pre-game. He went into the locker room, dug out his uniform and equipment bag from the trainer's room, and started the game. He had two interceptions, including one to set up the Redskins' first score.
-- With Chris Cooley in the locker room getting a shin injury evaluated late in the first half, Todd Yoder stepped up and caught a 21-yard touchdown pass. Cooley later returned to the game and played through the injury, catching five passes overall for 93 yards.
-- Jason Campbell suffered a serious knee injury and left the game in the second quarter. In came veteran backup Todd Collins, seeing his first regular-season action since 1997, to lead the Redskins to a win. He completed 15-of-20 passes for 224 yards and two touchdowns.
-- Fred Smoot was throwing up on the sidelines. He was quickly carted into the locker room for further evaluation. Then he saw on a television that the Bears were mounting a comeback. Believing he would not be allowed to re-enter the game, he asked an athletic trainer to fetch him something. Then Smoot took out his IV and raced back out onto the field to finish the game.
-- Clinton Portis was also throwing up on the sidelines due to some bad shrimp he ate earlier in the day. Ladell Betts replaced him several times, but Portis kept on going back into the game.
It was a performance that gave Gibbs hope for the last three games of the season as the Redskins try to mount a playoff push.
He called the Bears game a "special victory." It ended the Redskins' four-game losing streak.
"You have people coming on and off the field and I'm looking at it saying, 'Good Gosh,'" he said. "It was hard to keep track of what was happening to us. It could have been a situation where a guy could have said, 'I'm not going to go back in.' There were a lot of heroes. A lot of guys played extremely hard and physical.
"All of the things that happened, and to fall on the heels of all the things we've been through emotionally, and then to see your quarterback go down, guys going in and out all during the game--it was real emotional night. Our guys' attitude was great and it took that for us to make plays."
From the tragic death of Sean Taylor to the rash of injuries to a series of tough losses, Gibbs and the Redskins have faced plenty of adversity this season.
In a Redskins Radio interview on Monday, Gibbs said it was "definitely" the hardest year of his head coaching career.
"And that's a long time, too," he said. "I think 0-5 start would rival this, but certainly this year it's been a different challenge every week."
The win over Chicago uplifted the team's morale, Gibbs said. That will be key as the Redskins need to win their final three games to have a chance at a playoff spot.
"I felt like the guys were having a good time [in the Chicago game]," he said. "It has been such a struggle for us these past couple of weeks. Emotionally, everything that has happened has made it hard for anybody to laugh or have some fun.
"But [last Thursday], they were playing that way on the field. They were back to being excited about it."