It was only one ugly win over another bad team, but the Washington Redskins just hit the pressure release nearing the offseason.
Beating Arizona 20-15 on Sunday before a half-empty FedEx Field sure beat increased calls for Washington coach Jay Gruden’s job. Instead, the 6-8 Redskins still have a chance to finish 8-8 and salvage a lost season.
“I think everybody’s relieved,” Gruden said.
Certainly, Gruden most of all. Losing out for a 5-11 season most likely would have cost the fourth-year coach his job. Somebody has to be a scapegoat and president Bruce Allen is pretty good at quickly saying “not me.”
Not that Gruden had the Midas touch against the Cards. His play-calling in the final minutes was intended more to burn two Arizona time outs than clinching the win. Another challenge was rejected to burn a timeout. There were times the Redskins lacked a counter punch, especially offensively under Gruden.
But, the tenaciousness the team sported earlier this season returned to the defense. Arizona managed five field goals and no touchdowns. Oh, there was a lingering moment with 37 seconds left that nearly saw the Cards on the Redskins’ two-yard line when Arizona tight end Troy Niklas let the ball escape his fingertips while Washington linebacker Zach Vigil was close behind. Three more close plays followed, each leaving the crowd afraid to exhale.
It was a razor-thin victory, but it has been a season of narrow losses, too. This time luck was on Washington’s side.
“I wouldn’t call it desperation,” Gruden said. “I would call it desire more than desperation.”
Said center Chase Roullier: “There were some moments where we looked pretty good. There were some moments where we didn’t look so good. But when it comes down to it, we got the win and we did enough to win the game.”
Maybe now Redskins fans will focus more on whether quarterback Kirk Cousins is returning rather than worrying about Gruden’s fate. Maybe the two are intertwined, but at least Gruden now avoids the stain of a late-season collapse.
Then again, there are still two games left and anything is possible.
Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter @Snide_Remarks.