What an incredible scene it was a short time before 1 a.m. Sunday at Redskins Park. As the Redskins' caravan of busses pulled into the team's Ashburn, Loudoun County, Va., training facility, more than 500 loyal fans braved chilly temperatures to greet their favorite team.
A few hours earlier, the Redskins had defeated Tampa Bay 17-10 at Raymond James Stadium to register their first postseason win since the 1999 playoffs.
Devoted Redskins fans lined the entrance roads and paths to the team's football operations center. They held congratulatory signs, gathered around favorite players and coaches and chanted choruses of "We Want Seattle, We Want Seattle, We Want Seattle."
Eventually, there was a chant of "We Want Dallas," too.
Most players and coaches, exhausted from a stressful playoff game and the late arrival home, made their way to their cars. Others stayed to marvel in the scene.
Head coach Joe Gibbs signed autographs for dozens of fans, tight end Robert Royal stopped and chatted with several fans and Chris Cooley posed for pictures.
The Redskins will be playing the Seahawks in the second round of the postseason. That game will be played in Seattle next Saturday at 4:30 p.m.
In Tampa on Saturday evening, the Redskins could muster little offense, in fact just 120 yards overall. But their tenacious defense would not wilt as the Redskins gained a measure of revenge for a 36-35 setback at Tampa on Week 10.
"I thought we fought extremely hard all day," said Gibbs, who was encircled by well wishers early Sunday morning back at Redskins Park. "I think we fought all the way across the board on special teams, offense and defense. Certainly, our defense kept us in it."
The only scoring for Washington came on Clinton Portis's six-yard TD run in the first quarter, Sean Taylor's 51-yard return with a fumble for a TD in the first quarter and John Hall's 47-yard field goal in the second quarter.
An interception by LaVar Arrington early in the game seemed to get the Redskins' defense rolling. Another clutch interception, this one by fellow linebacker Marcus Washington with 1:05 left, sealed the win for the Redskins.
Said Gibbs: "The turnovers were a big deal. Earlier in the year, we were on the short end of turnovers all the time and it really cost us. I think since we've been down getting them down the stretch here, in all of the last six games, and it has flipped around for us."
The Redskins once were 5-6 but have reeled off six straight wins and head into Seattle as the hottest team in the league.
Their fans, particularly the ones who showed up at Redskins Park early Sunday morning, understand that Redskins football, and the mania that surrounds it, is back.