Redskins Profit On Thin Margins

The Washington Post's Jason Reid reflects on the Redskins' 14-11 victory over Cleveland on Sunday at FedEx Field. Video by
By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Nine days ago, the Washington Redskins stood helplessly, watching a football sail toward the goal posts. It fluttered through, and they lost. Sunday evening, that same group of players and coaches stood on the same field with that same feeling, watching yet another kick. It went wide, and they won.

"It could be that way all year," Coach Jim Zorn said.

Approaching the midway point of the season, perhaps no team has been touched by the vagaries of the close-as-kin NFL as the Redskins, who have yet to play a game decided before the final two possessions. They have five wins, all decided by a touchdown or less. They have two losses, neither by more than nine points.

In the final seconds of different games, they have had to secure an opponent's onside kick, twice converted a fourth down to prevent giving the ball back to another team with a chance to win and watch a field goal -- Sunday's 54-yarder by Cleveland's Phil Dawson -- float wide, preventing overtime.

What the Redskins don't have headed into Sunday's game at winless Detroit is anything resembling a blowout, either way. After seven weeks of the season, only one other team, Jacksonville, has yet to be involved in a double-digit decision. The other 30 teams in the league have all had at least two such games.

The Jaguars and Redskins are also the only teams to play six games decided by a touchdown or less. For the Jaguars, that harrowing personality has evened out; they're 3-3. The Redskins, somehow, have managed to turn most of those tight situations in their favor.

The Redskins know they could have lost tight games in the final minute against Cleveland (14-11), Philadelphia (23-17), Dallas (26-24), Arizona (24-17) or New Orleans (29-24). They did lose on a game-ending field goal to St. Louis (19-17).

The players can only attempt to explain why that happens.

"Guys don't, I guess, get nervous," linebacker Marcus Washington said. "They don't panic."

That is the convenient explanation for what is essentially inexplicable. Zorn, though, has a clearer view. He knows that his club ranks seventh in the NFL in total offense, sixth in total defense. Only one other team, the New York Giants, stands in the top seven in the league in both categories.

But the Giants, the only team ahead of the Redskins in the NFC East, are beating teams by an average of 11.5 points per game. The Redskins' point differential is a scant 1.7 points per game. Their idea of a thumping is that seven-point win over the Cardinals.

"We're not really a dominant team, are we?" Zorn said. "I don't know of many teams right now in the National Football League that you can say, 'This team could be undefeated.' "

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