The Redskins knew they had to go to Cleveland and take care of business if they wanted any chance of staying in the NFC playoff hunt.
They did just that, dominating the second half to defeat the hometown Browns, 38-21, behind the play of backup quarterback Kirk Cousins -- a rookie making his first-career start in relief of the injured Robert Griffin III – and a defense that, once again, made the halftime adjustments needed to win.
The win propelled the once-listless team to 8-6 and allowed them to start spying the out of town scoreboard.
When the Redskins players got back to Washington, found themselves the mathematical leaders of a gridlocked NFC East that features three teams at 8-6. While the Pittsburgh Steelers were no match for the Dallas Cowboys, the New York Giants were stifled in Atlanta, 34-0.
Thanks to a superior division record compared to the Giants and a head-to-head victory over the Cowboys, Washington holds the tie breakers over both teams for the division title, and is also tied with the Chicago Bears and the Minnesota Vikings for an NFC Wild Card spot.
The red-hot Redskins are right where they want to be.
"It definitely feels good," middle linebacker Perry Riley said. "We're in first place, and it's ours to lose. We're not hoping somebody else has to lose; we control our own destiny. That's what we've been playing all year for, and to be here in this position with two games left, it's a good feeling."
The Redskins are also heading into recently uncharted territory for a proud franchise that has had its share of ups and downs since 1991, when it last claimed a Super Bowl title. Washington has a share of the NFC East lead after 15 weeks for the first time since the 1999 season.
To say the team is excited about its current run and the possibility of a playoff appearance – with a possible home playoff game hanging in the balance, no less – would be an understatement.
"Scenarios aside, if we win, we're in the playoffs," veteran safety Reed Doughty said. "It's a great place to be. There's a lot of [teams] looking at, "OK, if they lose, and then we win..." No, if we win, we're in the playoffs. To get the chance at a home playoff game? D.C. needs that, and it's exciting."
Wins in Washington's two remaining games – at the Philadelphia Eagles next Sunday and at home against the Dallas Cowboys Dec. 30 – would earn the team that aforementioned home playoff game.
"Everybody's hitting on all cylinders," linebacker and captain Lorenzo Alexander said. "We've just got to continue to finish this thing out with the same thought process we've had for the last five games – just one game at a time – and get ready for Philly."
Outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan can't wait to take the field again.
"It's been an awesome ride this second half of the season," Kerrigan said. "We're not done yet – we've still got two games left. But you can definitely expect us to play even harder and to play with even more fight next weekend because we know what's on the line.
"We know we control our own destiny."