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Mike Shanahan’s Redskins show they haven’t given up the fight in loss to Cowboys

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Their hopes of winning the NFC East division faded weeks ago. Viable NFL playoff contenders usually don’t lose six games in a row. Obviously, the Washington Redskins are in the midst of another wasted season.

Still, they’re displaying something important. They’ve shown a quality that may help them grow stronger from this mess. The Redskins are continuing to play with character, which was clear in Sunday’s 27-24 loss in overtime to the Dallas Cowboys.

The Redskins never gave up. Not after falling behind, 10-0, early during the second quarter against their NFC East rivals. Not after — once again — appearing incapable of resembling a professional offense to start the game. Even after Dallas delivered an impressive late-game punch, Washington stood firm.

At this point, that’s exactly what the Redskins must do. Really, it’s all about fighting to the end. Washington lacks elite talent in key areas, and management’s mistakes have made things worse, but none of that is an excuse to back down to anyone.

Despite setbacks, the Redskins remain committed to fulfilling Coach Mike Shanahan’s vision for the franchise. They have confidence in his leadership. Showing some form of progress, no matter how small, is important for the remainder of the season.

Extending Sunday’s game to overtime against the more-talented Cowboys “was just an example of what we’re trying to do here,” inside linebacker London Fletcher said. “One thing Coach Shanahan has talked about is character.

“He talks about the type of character he wants to see in this football team. Today, it was evident what type of character we have on this football team. We battled. Dallas went up early . . . then they went up late. But there’s just no quit in this football team. That’s important. It’s important to all of us to keep fighting no matter how hard it is.”

Often this season, the easy path was available. On Sunday, the Redskins could have chosen to fold.

Their well-documented problems on offense continued at the outset. The Redskins have had awful quarterback play, whether Rex Grossman or John Beck has started. It was a familiar story in the first quarter.

Shanahan turned back to Grossman because Beck seemed incapable of locating receivers running uncovered downfield. Despite Grossman’s unacceptably high turnover rate, it made sense for Shanahan to make his second quarterback change this season.

At least Grossman occasionally mixes in big plays with turnovers. He did so Sunday in helping the Redskins take a 14-10 halftime lead.

As infuriating as Grossman can be at times because of his poor judgment with the football, he has the respect of his teammates. Many of them believe he gives the Redskins a much better chance to win than Beck.

When downtrodden players are trying to maintain their spirits, it makes sense to go with the guy they want. Grossman helps his teammates maintain hope.

Don’t underestimate that in the Redskins’ desire to play hard for the final six games. Although it’s true each player is responsible for himself, and everyone should have enough professional pride to work hard, it doesn’t always work that way.

“We’ve got a lot of good leadership in here, and that’s really where it starts,” special teams captain Lorenzo Alexander said. “No matter what happens, we know there are guys we can count on to give everything they have, and Rex is definitely one of those guys we believe in.

“I know that there have been points [this season] where maybe [fans] questioned if some people are out there fighting hard. But you saw just the opposite today. The offense really stepped up today and had a lot of big plays. Guys see that.”

Others also provided rallying sparks.

Jabar Gaffney had game-highs with seven receptions for 115 yards and a touchdown. Brandon Banks finally showed signs of life with a 55-yard punt return. Second-year inside linebacker Perry Riley had 10 tackles in his second career start. Fletcher was, well, Fletcher.

“I thought we played extremely hard,” Shanahan said. “I thought we kept our poise. I was just disappointed we didn’t get the job done.

“We gotta go back and say, ‘Hey, everybody’s gotta look at themselves, day-to-day, and just keep up the work on the little things.’ If you do that then you’ve got a chance to win a football game.”

There are no moral victories. The Redskins realize it’s about the bottom line. But since they have to build on something, showing pride is always a good place to start.

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