The Washington Redskins, for a second straight year, are left trying to put their season back together after a 3-6 beginning. They pulled it off last season, winning seven straight games to capture the NFC East title. But the road to a second such turnaround is more perilous.
The six teams left on the Redskins’ schedule — they play the New York Giants twice — have a combined record this season of 30-26, a winning percentage of .536. Their seven-game winning streak to end the regular season last year was achieved against five opponents that had a winning percentage of .478 at this point last season and .450 at the finish.
“We know we’re capable of it because we’ve done it before,” linebacker Ryan Kerrigan said Monday at Redskins Park. “But at the same time . . . every week at this point in the season is a one-week season. You’ve got to treat it like that.”
The Redskins still have the unbeaten Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers, the defending NFC champions, left to play. But they do have four games remaining against NFC East opponents, beginning with Sunday’s contest at Philadelphia. Last season’s winning streak included five victories over division foes and started with consecutive triumphs over the Eagles, Dallas Cowboys and Giants.
“Obviously to have an opportunity to still be in the conversation as far as the division is concerned is a bonus,” defensive lineman Kedric Golston said. “But at the end of the day, we’ve got to take care of our own business and start winning football games around here and stop relying on other people’s failures.”
Said cornerback DeAngelo Hall: “Does it feel different? Not really; 3-6 is 3-6. The division’s still kind of up for grabs a little bit. Philly’s been kind of on a roll now. So how do we fix it? I don’t know. Like I keep saying week after week, there’s no magic formula to take or special pill we can pop to run some wins off. It’s just start to execute, get down to the fundamentals, tackling, doing the things that we’ve done since little kids to be successful in football. That’s what we’ve got to get back to. That’s what we have to hang our hat on to win football games.”
The Redskins are fortunate to play in the sport’s most humble division. The NFC East is the league’s only division without a single team with a winning record. The Redskins are only 11 / 2 games behind the Eagles and Cowboys, who are tied for first place at 5-5. Even the Giants still can call themselves contenders after losing their first six games of the season. They’ve won three games in a row since then and are tied with the Redskins for third place.
“It’s kind of, I guess, a little difficult to hear people talk about this division being so bad because it’s been so good over the past couple years,” Hall said. “It’s always one of those divisions where you’re gonna beat yourself up a little bit back and forth around the league. But it’s normally not as bad as it’s been the last two years. So we’ve definitely still got a chance. A lot of things have to happen. But you’ve got to continue to just go out there and keep fighting.”
Kerrigan said that last season’s predicament at 3-6 “felt a lot worse” than this season’s 3-6, adding: “We’ve been so close in so many games. We just know we have to finish games. We know we’re not that far off.”
The Redskins indeed have squandered second-half leads recently in losses at Denver and Minnesota. But unlike last season, when their offense was productive practically all season and their focus was on improving on defense, this season’s issues have been more widespread. The offense and defense have played well enough to win at separate times but too rarely have done so in tandem. Players acknowledge that special teams breakdowns have been a recurring problem.
“We can talk about everybody else,” Hall said. “But the bottom line is we have to be a lot better. We can’t make it to the playoffs and can’t expect to do anything in the playoffs playing like we’ve been playing. It’s pointless to even get there. You want to start playing good football. You want to start having things go the right way. That’s kind of how it was last year. We were 3-6 but things started going the right way. . . . You want to play good football towards this time of the season because that’s the only way you can make it in the playoffs.”
Safety Reed Doughty was asked Monday if the Redskins are confident they can craft another turnaround.
“I’m not sure we had the confidence then,” Doughty said. “I think the only confidence you can get is from winning games. So people want to talk about getting on a streak. People want to talk about that. But you’ve got to play better and you’ve got to play consistently. You’ve got to start by winning one game. . . . You’ve got to win games that you’re supposed to win. And we’re gonna have to win some games that we’re not supposed to win at this point.”