Then Kent Graham got hot. And Michael Westbrook caught passes. And the defense stiffened.
Now the season is starting to look pretty good.
Washington beat Denver, 17-10, for its fourth straight win, improving to 4-5. Denver fell to 5-5. Owner Dan Snyder, and his partners, greeted the players with handshakes and shouts as they entered the locker room.
The Redskins won minus starting quarterback Tony Banks, who suffered a second-quarter concussion. But backup Kent Graham, signed two months ago, completed 12 of 18 passes for 123 yards and two touchdowns.
He engineered all three scoring drives and capped the game-winner with a three-yard touchdown pass to tight end Zeron Flemister.
''When you're thrown out in the heat of the moment,'' Graham said, ''you go back to your natural ways and don't worry about things.''
Turns out there was nothing to worry about.
The Redskins winning drive started on their own 46 with 8:36 remaining in the game. And it started poorly: Graham was sacked for a 10-yard loss.
But Graham completed a 16-yard pass to Westbrook, one of nine on the day for him. Westbrook drew a pass interference penalty on the next play for a first down at Denver's 41.
Then the Redskins' luck changed. Graham bobbled the next snap, but managed to still hand it off to Stephen Davis, who gained 13 yards.
Later, on second and 13 from the 18, Graham threw back to Flemister, who raced to the 3. Three plays later he scored.
Earlier in the fourth quarter, Graham connected with receiver Michael Westbrook for a five-yard touchdown pass. Westbrook also caught two other passes for a combined 30 yards on this drive en route to a nine-catch, 104-yard day.
''Without question I'd say I had fun,'' said Westbrook, who hasn't been thrilled with his role this season. ''I've had no balls thrown to me then all of a sudden I get 13. That's a lot of fun. But if we had lost those catches wouldn't have meant anything. If I catch two balls next week and we win, that's fine.''
Redskins coach Marty Schottenheimer said Westbrook's increased role stemmed from the way Denver played. The Broncos often used nine defenders within five yards, leaving the corners in man coverage.
''They dared us to throw,'' Schottenheimer said.
The defense took away many of Schottenheimer's worries with how it played, holding Denver to 186 total yards and only 10 first downs.
The vaunted Broncos' running game managed only 88 total yards. And the NFL's leading receiver, Rod Smith, grabbed just three passes for 25 yards before leaving the game for good in the fourth quarter with a bum ankle.
Corner Champ Bailey played his best game, shutting Smith down. Bailey covered him almost every play.
''He's the biggest part of their offense,'' Bailey said. ''You take him out you take out a big chunk of their offense.''
Rain and snow swirled throughout the day, causing slippery exchanges and fumbled punts.
A fumble ruined excellent field position on Washington's first drive as Banks failed to stick a handoff in Stephen Davis' gut, putting it on his hip instead. The Broncos recovered at their own 41.
Banks fumbled another time while running around right end, holding the ball with one hand. Again Denver recovered, this time at the Washington 38.
But the defense forced a punt. Not that it turned out well for the Redskins.
Returner Eric Metcalf, signalling for a fair catch, fumbled the ball at his own 13. Metcalf said the falling sleet got in his eyes as he looked up for the ball.
''I lost it when the stuff hit me,'' Metcalf said.
Denver recovered and drove for its only touchdown, a one-yard pass from Brian Griese to Rod Smith, who beat Bailey for a 10-0 lead.
The Redskins rallied on the ensuing drive, in which Banks was hurt. Banks had driven Washington to the Denver 48 when Lett drilled him.
Graham took it from there, completing passes of 12 yards to Rod Gardner and six to Michael Westbrook to the Denver 30. But after a two-yard completion on second and four, Graham fumbled the next snap.
Brett Conway then kicked a 48-yard field goal against the wind. Given the conditions, Schottenheimer said they felt that might have been as far as Conway could kick it.
''That was a tough kick,'' Conway saids. ''If I make it, it's a big boost. If I don't, it lets the air out.''
Denver took a 3-0 lead with 11:03 left in the second quarter when Jason Elam kicked a 33-yard field goal. Linebacker LaVar Arrington drew a 15-yard personal foul for a late hit, then was involved in a key play later in this drive.
On second and seven, Arrington drilled fullback Tony Carter on a pass, jarring the ball free. Corner Champ Bailey appeared to recover the fumble before stepping out of bounds. But, the officials ruled Bailey had stepped out of bounds. The Redskins challenged the play only to have the officials rule the pass incomplete.
Three plays later Elam snapped the scoreless tie.
That also ended a quarter of futility. In the opening 15 minutes, the teams combined for seven punts--three by Washington's Bryan Barker.