As the sun set in Arizona, Redskins fans chanted "Let's go Redskins" at Sun Devil Stadium while the clock wound down to zeroes, the Redskins holding a 17-13 lead over the Cardinals.
Moments later, Washington was back above .500 with a 7-6 record and three key divisional games upcoming. The Redskins have plenty to play for after Sunday's win.
Against the Cardinals, Clinton Portis rushed for 105 yards on 26 carries and one touchdown, as the fourth-year running back put a struggling offense on his shoulders in the second half.
On special teams, Antonio Brown provided the game-winning points with a dynamic 91-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. He sped past the Redskins' sideline and blew kisses to his coaches and teammates, adding a poignant touch to the dynamic return. Just three weeks ago, Brown was out of football until injuries forced the Redskins to re-sign him.
On defense, safety Sean Taylor had a huge game, with an interception, a forced fumble, and a key tackle on a 4th-and-2 play late in the fourth quarter that all but clinched the win. Safety Pierson Prioleau added a sack and a forced fumble, as well as six tackles.
The offense's second-half performance was in stark contrast to a first half that was marred with turnovers by both teams. It was a combination of sloppy offense and opportunistic defense, with the Redskins turning the ball over on their first two possessions and the Cardinals turning the ball on their first three possessions.
Mark Brunell was 18-of-28 for 122 yards and three interceptions. It was the Redskins' defense who forced the first turnover, however.
Early in the first quarter, Taylor stepped in front of a pass to Cardinals' wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and picked it off. The Redskins' offense quickly moved into scoring range, but Brunell's pass to Chris Cooley was tipped and intercepted by cornerback Antrel Rolle.
On the ensuing drive, on a 3rd-and-7 play, Prioleau came in on a blitz and sacked Cardinals' quarterback Kurt Warner, forcing a fumble. Several Redskins had a chance to pounce on the ball, but it was Prioleau who picked it up first and returned it to the Cardinals' 44-yard line.
Brunell led the offense into scoring range again, completing passes to Santana Moss and Robert Royal. But his 3rd-and-8 pass to Ladell Betts was overthrown and intercepted by cornerback David Macklin.
One play later, linebacker Lemar Marshall stripped running back J.J. Arrington of the ball and Marcus Washington recovered the fumble. That gave the Redskins' offense the ball at the Cardinals' 23-yard line.
This time, the Redskins' offense was unable to move the ball--but at least this time there was no turnover. The offense settled for a 41-yard field goal by John Hall and a 3-0 lead at the start of the first quarter.
The Cardinals responded with an efficient 12-play, 65-yard touchdown drive to take a 7-3 lead. Warner passed to wide receiver LeRon McCoy on a 2-yard slant pattern for the score.
Later in the second quarter, the Redskins forced their fourth turnover of the first half when Taylor poked the ball loose from running back Marcel Shipp. Linebacker Warrick Holdman recovered the fumble at the Redskins' 44-yard line.
But Brunell threw his third interception of the first half--his pass to Cooley was off target--and negated another Redskins' scoring opportunity. The Cardinals converted the turnover into a 44-yard field goal by kicker Neil Rackers and went into halftime with a 10-3 lead.
On the opening drive of the second half, the Redskins played with a renewed sense of urgency. The offense set the tone with a drive that began with Brunell completing a swing pass to Cooley, who maintained his balance past several tacklers for a 16-yard pickup.
Portis churned out tough yards on the drive, but the Redskins were faced with a 4th-and-2 at the Cardinals' 32-yard line. Gibbs elected to go for it, and sent in Betts to give Portis a breather. Betts followed blockers for a 2-yard gain and a first down.
One play later, Portis took a handoff and veered right, following a block by Mike Sellers. At one point, Portis actually grabbed onto the back of Sellers' shirt as he approached the end zone. Portis danced along the sideline and held the ball across the goal line for a 15-yard touchdown run. The 13-play, 80-yard drive took off 7:40 off the game clock.
The Cardinals responded with an 11-play, 66-yard drive culminated with a 20-yard field goal by Rackers. Carlos Rogers tackled McCoy two yards short of the goal line on a key third-down play.
Then lightning struck in the form of speedster Antonio Brown.
Brown returned the ensuing kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown, giving the Redskins a 17-13 lead that they would not relinquish. Brown found a huge hole to the left and burst into open field. Jimmy Farris blocked out the kicker Nick Novak and cleared Brown's path to the end zone.
As Brown sped past the Redskins' sideline, he blew kisses to his coaches and teammates on the bench, a poignant moment for a player who re-signed to the team just three weeks ago.
The Redskins' defense did the rest, stopping Arizona's offense on four consecutive possessions to close out the game.
Demetric Evans recorded a key sasck late in the third quarter to knock the Cardinals out of field goal range and force a punt. Prioleau tackled wide receiver Bryant Johnson two yards short of a first down to thwart another drive. And Taylor tackled Arrington on the 4th-and-2 play to end the game.
The Redskins' offense took over at the two minute warning and proceeded to run out the clock. On a 3rd-and-6 play, Portis took the handoff and followed blocks by Casey Rabach and Randy Thomas. The entire offensive line helped push Portis a few extra yards for the first down.