The Redskins had plenty of excuses to lose.
Two of their best players didn't suit up. A poorly timed turnover. Continued red zone struggles. Coughing up a lead, and, coughing up a game's momentum.
But here's what's happened: The Redskins won.
In Sunday's 26-20 defeat of the Vikings, Washington could have lost a few different ways.
And if players or coaches wanted to, they could have made excuses.
Trent Williams didn't play, serving the first game of a four week-suspension. Few teams can afford to lose an elite talent like Williams, especially against a defensive front like the Vikings.
But Bill Callahan's unit would make no excuses.
DeSean Jackson didn't play either, still dealing with a shoulder injury sustained two weeks prior in London. Though Jackson's numbers are down this season, his impact on the offense can't always be measured, and without him, surely the 'Skins offense would become more stagnant.
But Kirk Cousins' offense would make no excuses.
To a man - from head coach Jay Gruden to seldom used special teams players - the Redskins insisted on the Next Man Up philosopy that winning teams embrace. After three straight weeks without a win, Washington went out and took one, regardless of how close they came to a different result.
"Quite frankly, I don’t think you ever step into a football game without urgency, otherwise you get beat," Gruden said after his team moved to 5-3-1 on the year.
Like they've done in previous home games against the Browns and the Eagles, the Skins got out to an early 14-0 lead.
For a stretch, it looked like Washington would roll to a big win over the slumping Vikings, but like against the Browns and Eagles, the Redskins could not pull away. Minnesota clawed back to tie, and even took the lead going into halftime.
"We just had to keep our poise. I remind them every game this year, we’ve been leading and we’ve been trailing, and today’s no different," the coach said. "We just have to continue to handle the adversity, the adverse situations."
In the second half the Redskins defense did just that - shutting down the Minnesota attack, allowing zero points over the game's final 30 minutes.
"We have a pretty good resolve in this locker room. We know every game is going to be close," Washington linebacker Ryan Kerrigan said. "We know most games we’re playing are going to be close and you have to have that mindset going into every game that you have to play for a full 60 minutes.”
A good effort against a mediocre Vikings offense, the Washington defense was spurred to victory by Preston Smith's two sacks and an interception.
In a way, Smith's breakout game exemplifies what the Redskins did to win against the Vikes. Underwhelming at times this season despite showing great promise last year, Smith made the crucial interception when his team needed it most.
"He answered the bell, he really did," Gruden said. "Preston showed up in a big way."
Smith wasn't the only one to 'answer the bell.'
Ty Nsekhe answered the bell at left tackle with Williams out. Pierre Garçon had a season high 81 receiving yards with Jackson out.
"We do miss those players, without a doubt," Gruden said of Jackson and Williams. "The guys that played I’m very happy for, proud of the way they came and competed. It wasn’t too big for them and they made plays.”
In just his second season, Jamison Crowder has become Cousins' most trusted receiver. Leading the team in touchdowns and catches, Crowder again impressed, and afterwards, he explained that the whole offense stepped up with D-Jax on the sideline.
"We knew that with him being out we lost a big-time weapon but, you know, we just have to go out there and still have to do our job," Crowder said. "I wouldn’t say that we were pressured but we knew that we had to step it up another notch and make plays."
Then there is Robert Kelley, an undrafted rookie who has supplanted 2015 third-round pick Matt Jones as the starting running back.
"I really like the way these guys play. It’s a great effort. The guys are stepping up to fill in for crucial players," Gruden said. "A lot of guys are stepping up, everybody’s pitching in and doing their part, whether it’s one catch or five catches. Whether it’s one tackle or five tackles, everyone’s pitching in and doing their part."
To be clear, there is plenty to criticize from the Skins game on Sunday.
Red zone struggles continue to plague Washington, and the problem became very apparent in the second half against the Vikings. Cousins threw a highly questionnable ball early in the game that could have been intercepted, and Chris Thompson had an unfortunate fumble just before halftime. And, oh yeah, the Redskins defense proved entirely incapable of slowing former Maryland receiver Stefon Diggs.
But for the Redskins, there will be no excuses.
That's the fun thing about winning. Problems can be addressed, but excuses aren't made. Yes, DeSean and Trent didn't play, but the team won without them. Yes, Cousins' group left points on the field, again, but the team won despite it.
Believe it or not, those are signs of good teams.
This Redskins team isn't great — but they are good. And there's a lot of season left to keep improving.