WASHINGTON -- To accept the points or take them off the board.
That was the decision coach Joe Gibbs faced with with 2 minutes, 14 seconds left in the game yesterday at RFK Stadium.
The Washington Redskins coach decided to accept Chip Lohmiller's 35-yard field goal, and it stood up for a dramatic, 10-9 victory over the Chicago Bears that virtually guaranteed the team a playoff berth for the first time in three seasons.
Gibbs' decision to take the field goal and turn down an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that would have given Washington a first down on the Bears' 9 was looking a bit shaky when Chicago gained 39 yards in two plays to advance to the Washington 46 with 25 seconds left.
But the defense made one last stand, and Bears quarterback Jim Harbaugh threw a pair of incomplete passes and was sacked by Charles Mann on the final play of the game.
"That's a tough call," Gibbs said of his decision to take the field goal. "I made a decision to put it on on the defense. I told our defense they probably kept me on the job today because I could have been hung from the yardarm."
Richie Petitbon, the assistant coach who runs the defense, called it the team's biggest victory since the Redskins won the Super Bowl three seasons ago.
"I don't think we've won a game in the last three years that really meant something. I think that's why we missed the playoffs. I think this'll probably get us in the playoffs," he said.
The victory boosted Washington's record to 8-5, and means all it has to do is beat the 1-12 New England Patriots and the 5-8 Indianapolis Colts the next two Saturdays to clinch a National Football Conference wild-card berth.
If the season ended today, the Redskins would play the Philadelphia Eagles in the wild-card game, and the winner would play at the San Francisco 49ers.
After beating the Miami Dolphins when they were 9-2 last week, the victory over the Bears, now 10-3, gave them back-to-back victories over winning clubs.
They rebounded after suffering an embarrassing, 27-17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving.
The Redskins have used the same formula for the last two weeks: tough practices during the week and a players-only team meeting the night before.
The Redskins also overcame adversity. Quarterback Mark Rypien, who was intercepted five times, was fighting a case of the flu, and Mann was up much of the night after his wife was rushed to the hospital for tests when she woke up in the night and had lost her equilibrium.
The Redskins seem to think they are playing the same way they did in their Super Bowl years.
"That's what it felt like today," defensive lineman Darryl Grant said. "It was a taste of those days."
The Redskins also had two breaks in critical situations in the fourth period.
Leading 9-7 in the third period, the Bears faced a third-and-13 play at their 37 when Harbaugh unloaded a pass intended for Glen Kozlowski. Sid Johnson obviously interfered with him to give the Bears what would have been a first down at the Washington 35.
But the officials made a questionable call on center Jay Hilgenberg for being illegally downfield to offset the interference call. They played the down again, and Harbaugh threw an incomplete pass and the Bears punted.
After Lohmiller was inches short on a 54-yard field-goal attempt, the Bears took over on their 36 with 4:16 left.
They could have taken control of the game, but Brad Muster fumbled on first down, and Todd Bowles recovered on the Chicago 25 after a wild scramble.
That set the stage for Lohmiller's game-winning field goal.
Even that had a touch of drama, when the Bears were called for leverage -- climbing on a teammate's back -- on the fourth-and-three situation at the Bears' 18.
"I'll tell you what. Coach Gibbs impressed me. He really was listening. There were several people, coaches and a couple of players voicing their opinions," Mann said.
Mann was reluctant to admit it, but he disagreed with Gibbs and wanted to take the penalty.
"All they had to do was kick a field goal. Yeah, I wanted to take the points off, run the clock off to about three seconds and kick a field goal. Yes, I did. OK, I said it," Mann said.
Petitbon also sounded as if he wanted to take the penalty. "I'd never second-guess anybody," he said. "It worked out great, and that's all that counts."
But cornerback Darrell Green backed the decision.
"I was with him all the way on that. I agree. We haven't have been leading this game all day. Now we're leading it. Let's keep our lead and let us go out and do the job. It probably gave some people some heart attacks, but that's kind of the old rule you don't take points off the board," Green said.
Rypien also backed the move.
"That's a cardinal sin in football. Never take points off the board. If it was an all out offensive battle, you might think otherwise. The way our defense was playing, I felt good about it. "
When Rypien was asked if he had any input, he said jokingly, "Do you think they were going to listen to me, the game I played?"
Gibbs' decision seemed to be the logical one because the Redskins had already turned the ball over five times.
Gibbs would have been second-guessed if he had taken the points off the board and the Redskins had lost the ball. He also would have been second-guessed for taking the field goal if the Bears had come back to win, 12-10.
But the defense held, so there was no questioning his decision.
As Grant said of the victory: "It was ugly. We kept shooting ourselves in the foot, but it's something for us to build on."
NFL Week 14
Redskins 10 Bears 9
49ers 20 Bengals 17 (OT)
Giants 23 Vikings 15 Bills 31 Colts 7
Seahawks 20 Packers 14
Oilers 58 Browns 14
Steelers 24 Patriots 3
Cardinals 24 Falcons 13
Chiefs 31 Broncos 20
Saints 24 Rams 20
Eagles vs. Dolphins