ASHBURN, Va. (AP) — No one is surprised that Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder hates the New York Giants, or that Mike Shanahan hates the debilitating salary cap penalty imposed on his team by the NFL.
And, by now, no one should be surprised that the Redskins are playoff contenders with Robert Griffin III, who not only has his first Monday night win but also managed to reference "Gumby" during the postgame news conference.
There was all sorts of passion on display before, during and after the Redskins' 17-16 win over the Giants. Snyder was heard using a profane word, as first reported by USA Today, to describe the NFC East rivals while congratulating players and staff in the locker room. Washington's coaching staff used the cap penalties to motivate the players in the days before the game.
"Win one for the cap" doesn't quite have the same ring as "Win one for the Gipper," but players were made aware — through a notice posted on an assistant coach's door — that New York owner John Mara Mara supported the $36 million penalty assessed to the Redskins over two seasons for excessive spending during the uncapped 2010 year.
Shanahan said he didn't know if the ploy had an effect on the players, but the coach certainly had an extra edge because of it.
"Yeah, it fires me up," Shanahan said. "Yeah, sure it does."
What matters is who won the game, of course, and the Redskins (6-6) are now closing in on first place, tied with the Dallas Cowboys (6-6) and one game behind the Giants (7-5). Washington hosts the Baltimore Ravens (9-3) on Sunday, then finishes with a favorable stretch against the Cleveland Browns (4-8) and Philadelphia Eagles (3-9) before a home season finale against the Cowboys.
"We can't be complacent," Shanahan said, "because we don't have the opportunity to be complacent."
A month ago, when the record was 3-6, Shanahan was talking about evaluating players for future seasons. Now he sees a winning attitude that perhaps best showed itself when the Redskins were able to put the Giants away by holding the ball for the game's final four minutes.
"They knew we had to run it. We knew we had to run it," Shanahan said. "And we were able to get a first down. Those type of things build a lot of confidence."