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Redskins 'Heard Doubters;' Stayed Focused

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Saturday's NFC East-clinching victory over the Eagles was a microcosm for the entire season for the Redskins, who overcame adversity to pull away and win.

There was plenty of confusion — and even some anger — as the Washington Redskins failed to score before halftime in their 38-24 victory against the Philadelphia Eagles on Saturday night at Lincoln Financial Field.

Kirk Cousins inexplicably took a knee with six seconds remaining in the first half and the Redskins protecting a six-point lead. In the short 15 minutes the team spent in the locker room, they let the moment air out before they quickly narrowed their focus. On the second drive of the third quarter, Cousins completed six of 10 passes for 53 yards, including a 12-yard touchdown to running back Chris Thompson, to give the Redskins a 23-10 lead.

"There was a lot of confusion on what the play call was," Cousins said. "I just had a lapse in my decision-making and took a knee when I should have thrown the ball away to stop the clock. We were fortunate it didn't end up hurting us."

It only took four minutes for the Redskins (8-7) to get back on track toward a victory that clinched the NFC East title and a ticket to the playoffs for the first time since 2012 — an improbable turnaround for a team that won just seven games in the past two seasons.

"We had the debacle at the end of the first half and a normal guy could have gone in the tank there, but he just came in and kept his composure just like he has all year," coach Jay Gruden said. "Just like he has his whole career. He's kept his composure and just kept his nose to the grindstone and just kept battling and competing and doing what he's supposed to do. I'm very proud of this whole team."

Cousins has proven recently that he's not "just a normal guy." He completed 31 of 46 passes for 365 yards and four touchdowns on Saturday. In his last three games, he's completed 73.3 percent of his passes with nine touchdowns and one interception.

"This is the most satisfied I've been as a football player," Cousins said. "It's a big accomplishment, and the now the key is to build from here."

That drive served as a snapshot of the season, one in which the Redskins came together to complete the vision general manager Scot McCloughan had when he was hired in January.

The Redskins were not hoping to simply turn the corner from what veteran left tackle Trent Williams has described as the "Dark Days" of 2013-14. There were loftier goals, ones that included donning the commemorative hats and t-shirts they wore in the locker room that was filled with elation on Saturday night.

"We've been through a lot of ups and downs," Williams said. "I don't know if a year ago this team could have handled some of the adversity we faced. Scot did a great job bringing in leaders, bringing in talent. We're a hungry team. We heard the doubters. People talking. What we did is we just kept our head down and kept working and it all paid off."

There were obstacles along the way, and too many injuries to count, but the Redskins were pulled together by a unique blend of leaders such as free safety Dashon Goldson, nose tackle Terrance Knighton and defensive end Ricky Jean Francois — players McCloughan signed in the offseason to help change the attitude in the organization.

Nose tackle Kedric Golston, in his 10th season with the Redskins, perhaps has the best perspective in the locker room. He saw the change during the dog days of training camp, a rare unselfishness and commitment to winning displayed by various players as they prepared for the season.

That attitude change carried over and buoyed the Redskins when they needed it most, like when they needed to adjust at a moment's notice. It's how guys such as veteran cornerback Will Blackmon, signed as a free agent in September, was able to come in and juggle a variety of roles to help hold together an injured secondary. It's how veteran DeAngelo Hall, a lifelong cornerback, was able to transition to safety late in the season, with Goldson's help.

"Everybody, regardless of glory, regardless of who was out there playing at a high level, we were all rooting for one another," Golston said. "There was no selfishness. It's a testament to the coaches, the GM, the ownership for bringing the right guys in. There's a difference between collecting talent and building a football team. Scot and everybody did a good job of building a football team."

As the Redskins exited the field, McCloughan was waiting in the end zone like he does after every game to congratulate his players. It felt even sweeter for the Redskins, knowing there is an opportunity to rest against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 17.

However, as validating as Saturday's win was, defensive end Jason Hatcher acknowledged there was more work to be done. It's not that Hatcher wasn't taking the moment to savor the victory — he was just staying true to what the Redskins' message was all along.

"The stamp is never on," Hatcher said. "We have a bigger goal in mind. The sky is the limit for this football team and everybody bought in."

Read more Washington Redskins coverage in The Washington Times: http://www.washingtontimes.com/sports/washington-redskins/

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