CINCINNATI -- Now, it's the Washington Redskins who may have trouble keeping all of this in perspective.
The Redskins yesterday gave Cincinnati Bengals coach Sam Wyche a chance to repeat last week's lecture on making the effort to win more important than actually winning. Washington blew a 17-point, second-half lead before coming back to edge the Bengals, 34-27, before 52,038 fans at Riverfront Stadium.
"The two teams played a whale of game today," said Wyche after his team dropped to 0-4. "It was a tremendous game. Both teams should be congratulated. Neither team should read any headlines calling them bums [or] calling them bad guys because they didn't win.
"Let me say it to you one more time: Our team played their hearts out last week, and they played their hearts out this week. The effort to win is all a coach can ever ask."
The Redskins passed out a lot of congratulations to the Bengals after boosting their record to 4-0.
Coach Joe Gibbs seemed almost delighted that it was a close game, because he could repeat his warning of last week that a winless team could be dangerous.
"We felt like they were very good. We said all week that we'd get their best," Gibbs said.
The Redskins, though, apparently weren't thinking that much about the Bengals. They were thinking about how good their team might be.
Veteran wide receiver Art Monk, who rarely gives interviews after games, was in a reflective mood and said he was reminded of the 14-2 team in 1983 that went to the Super Bowl.
"I think we're as good as we want to be. We seem to be on a roll now, and everybody's real confident. Everybody's close. There's feeling that we can't be stopped. It's something we haven't seen in a long time," he said.
The Redskins won on three short touchdown runs by Gerald Riggs, a 66-yard punt return by Brian Mitchell for a touchdown during a 21-point, second-period explosion, a 75-yard rushing day by Earnest Byner, Monk's 54-yard touchdown reception and Mark Rypien's 217-yard passing effort.
Linebacker Matt Millen, who's in his first year with the team, but owns three Super Bowl rings, said, "They showed me something out there today."
He said it was different from the Redskins' comeback from a 21-10 deficit to beat the Dallas Cowboys, 33-31, two weeks ago. Millen said he felt the Redskins had control of that game, even when they were trailing in the second period.
He didn't feel that way yesterday.
"This was kind of a scary game. Momentum had changed," he said. "They had the big turnover. We had to either hold them out or hold them to a field goal at that point, which we did. Then, we had to hold them down inside the 10 there to get field position, which we did. Then the offense had to come in and score, which we did. That's the sign of a really good football team."
The Redskins had a 27-10 lead in the third period, when Martin Mayhew was called for a controversial, 36-yard interference penalty that got a 90-yard Cincinnati touchdown drive rolling and cut the deficit to 27-17.
The Bengals then added a 46-yard touchdown drive to cut the deficit to 27-24 and had a chance to take control when Rypien fumbled as he was hit by Alfred Williams and former Redskin Alonzo Mitz recovered on the Washington 46.
The Redskins defense held, and the Bengals settled for Jim Breech's 25-yard field goal with 9:48 left that tied the game, 27-27.
The Redskins came back and moved to the Cincinnati 37, but Rypien misfired on a pass to Ricky Sanders that Richard Fain intercepted on the Bengals' 1.
"It wasn't a good read and wasn't a good throw," Rypien said.
Bengals quarterback Boomer Esiason overthrew a bomb on first down, and Harold Green was stopped for 3 yards on two runs.
There was some surprise when Wyche ran on third-and-eight from the 4, but Wyche said the play went for a big gain earlier in the game and almost did on the previous play.
"We were backed up there. We took our shot deep [on first down] and didn't get it," Wyche said. "We came back and ran off tackle left, and I'm looking right down the hole and it came within a hair of going all the way. It popped, but their middle 'backer [Millen] comes off a block at the last second and makes a great play [to stop it for a 2-yard gain].
"We ran that thing again [on third down] to see if we could get it done, and it didn't work."
Green was stopped for a 1-yard gain.
Millen wouldn't fault the strategy of the third-down run, even though Esiason passed for 212 yards.
"It's easy to say in hindsight [that it was a bad call], because it didn't work. But you could be right here saying, 'They really crossed you up with they were inside the 5 and they came with a running play,' " Millen said.
The Bengals were forced to punt from their end zone, and the Redskins took over on their 47. They then came up with a good strategic move.
"It was a chess match," Gibbs said.
They put in a four-wide-receiver offense, and then ran six straight plays for the touchdown when the Bengals were playing the pass. Riggs got the touchdown on a 7-yard run after going 20 yards two plays earlier.
The four-wide-receiver offense was designed to get the Bengals out of their four-man front.
"We spread them out and gave them a passing look and did some good things in the running game," Rypien said.
The Redskins are 4-0 for only the third time in Gibbs' 11 seasons. In the 1982 strike year, they started 4-0 and won the Super Bowl. In 1986, they started 5-0 and went to the NFC title game.
The Redskins talk as if this will be a special year.
Mitchell, who has had three punt returns for touchdowns in the first three games, although one was called back, said: "Everybody is pulling for one thing. Everybody is together. You don't have all kinds of bickering and backbiting and things like that."
He quickly backtracked and said he didn't hear bickering last year in his rookie season, but said, "Last year, you didn't feel that closeness."
Gibbs said: "Real good teams have a good chemistry. We'll have to see if we can sustain that, but I think our guys do have a good feeling for each other."
Gibbs can't explain why it happened this year. "If you knew that, you'd program that baby in there every year."
Wyche, meanwhile, still was selling his message he came up with after a 14-13 loss to the Cleveland Browns last week.
"Winning is important, [but] the most important thing is to give it your best chance to win," he said.
The Bengals' best wasn't good enough to win yesterday.