Josh Norman believes, even if you don’t.
There are more than enough reasons to write off him and the rest of the Washington Redskins, more than enough injuries and erratic play to assume they’re destined to stumble toward the finish line of the regular season. But despite all of those setbacks and their many self-inflicted wounds, Norman remains confident that he and his teammates can still make the playoffs.
“Why would you not?” the cornerback asked, flashing a smile, inside a buoyant Redskins locker room Thanksgiving night.
In the aftermath of an ugly, mistake-prone affair with the reeling Giants — a prime-time matchup that featured quarterback Kirk Cousins getting sacked six times and throwing an interception that was returned for a touchdown — there was nothing but optimism among Washington players.
All that mattered to them was the final score — 20-10 — and what lies ahead: another Thursday night showdown with an NFC East rival, this time the Dallas Cowboys.
It will be the third game in 12 days for the Redskins (5-6). It also will serve as another chance to prove they can fight through hardships and be victorious.
“When you come out here and you still have those injuries and you put teams away, that again speaks for itself,” Norman said. “So if we can continue this, with the injuries that we have, nobody has anything [negative] to say about our team.
“We’ve just got to keep going and just keep fighting. Because at the end of the day, we’ve just got to be resilient. I think that’s the thing that’s going to determine our team. Resiliency. If we can have that … with the guys that went down, then you’ve got to put us up there. You really do.”
The likelihood of the Redskins making the playoffs is slim, considering the NFC playoff picture. The Philadelphia Eagles (9-1), Minnesota Vikings (9-2), New Orleans Saints (8-2) and Los Angeles Rams (7-3) are atop their respective divisions, while the Carolina Panthers (7-3) and Atlanta Falcons (6-4) are in position to earn the two wild-card spots. Six other teams — Seattle (6-4), Detroit (6-5), Green Bay (5-5), Dallas (5-6), Arizona (4-6) and Tampa Bay (4-6) — remain in the wild-card hunt along with the Redskins.
“We’ve got to keep winning,” safety D.J. Swearinger said, reiterating his confidence in Washington’s ability to make a postseason run. “This last stretch, these last five games, we’ve got to be on point. Every game is a playoff game from here on out if we want to make a run. So we’ve just got to stay the course.”
Each week, it seems, the length of the Redskins’ injured-reserve list grows. And each week, Gruden is charged with plugging roster holes with backups and no-names. Washington has featured 23 offensive starters this season — tied for most in the NFL. But adversity hasn’t weakened the Redskins’ resolve. Not even after last week’s crushing, 34-31 overtime loss in New Orleans.
“Confidence is the key to everything, no matter who you’re facing that week, regardless of who you have on the field with injuries,” Norman said. “Everybody seems to be on IR. It’s the craziest thing ever.
“But guys come in off the street, they get plugged in, and the next couple of days they’re playing a football game — against stars. It’s the craziest thing ever. And they’re holding their own. And we’re out here balling. … Sometimes we blow those [leads], but tonight we didn’t.”
Their head coach did his best to steer the postgame conversation away from postseason chatter. A day later, Jay Gruden still cautioned against looking too far ahead. But he acknowledged the Redskins “definitely have something to play for. There’s no doubt about it.
“That’s what we play for: We play for a chance to go the playoffs and win a Super Bowl,” Gruden said on a Friday afternoon conference call with reporters. “But obviously we’ve put ourselves in a position right now where we’re in a game-by-game-type scenario. We have to take care of one game at a time without a doubt — coach-speak — but that’s the only way we can approach it. You start looking ahead, you’ll forget about the team that you’re playing against.
“We play a good Dallas team that we’ve had trouble with the last three meetings. They’ve beaten us three in a row. So we’ve just got to set our goals high. And our goal right now is only to beat the Dallas Cowboys.”
Getting a win against Thanksgiving night was paramount. But if the Redskins hope to have any shot of sneaking into the playoffs, they will need to be far more productive and efficient than were against the equally depleted Giants (2-9).
“We can’t waver,” Norman said after the game. “I’m tired of this good-bad-good. We’ve got to keep going in the right direction.”
And if Washington somehow is able to pull off the improbable over the next month, it’s “going to make this thing so much better,” Norman added. “And make this thing so much [more] special.”
More on the NFL: