It was just six weeks ago when the Washington Redskins were 3-6 and trying to end a three-game losing streak. Their next game was against an equally struggling Philadelphia Eagles team, and a turnaround in their luck and their season was still a possibility.
Coach Mike Shanahan remained upbeat about the remainder of the season. In a Nov. 4 address to the media, Shanahan put the best spin on his optimistic outlook.
"Obviously, we're not out of it statistically, but now we find out what type of character we've got and how guys keep on fighting through the rest of the season."
The Redskins beat the Eagles soundly, 31-6. 'Skins QB Robert Griffin III threw four touchdowns to four different receivers and finished 14-of-15 for 200 yards and a perfect 158.3 rating, completing 93 percent of his passes. Two of Griffin's touchdown passes were for 49-plus yards. The team scored 10 points off of three Eagles turnovers.
Thus began a five-game winning streak for a team that played with determination, desire and an understanding that although it was only Week 11, they were already in a "must-win" situation if they wanted a chance at making the playoffs. The team had "swagger" on both offense and defense.
Fast-forward to Week 16 and the Eagles-Redskins rematch. The Eagles have gone into a tailspin and have lost all but one game since the first matchup between the two teams. The best the Eagles can do in the remaining two weeks is play the role of spoiler, as they play both the Redskins and the New York Giants—pivotal games for both teams to keep their NFC East division hopes a reality.
The 'Skins have not announced which quarterback will start against the Eagles, but the team has confidence in both Griffin and fellow rookie quarterback Kirk Cousins. Coach Shanahan said earlier this week that RG3 will start once doctors confirm his injured right knee has healed "100 percent."
"If the doctor gives his OK, he's going to play," Shanahan said.
If Griffin is not cleared to play, then Cousins will start his second NFL game. In the last two 'Skins games, Cousins led a come-from-behind tie and overtime win over the Baltimore Ravens and a win in Week 15 over the Cleveland Browns.
Cousins is a nominee for the Week 15 NFL "Rookie of the Week" after passing for 329 yards and two touchdowns against the Browns.
Sunday's game against the Eagles is in many ways more important than their first meeting in Week 11 because there is more at stake. With a win over the Eagles, the Redskins will have their first winning season since 2007, the last time the 'Skins were in the playoffs as well.
It is certainly easier said than done, but if the 'Skins can duplicate three key components from their Week 11 win over the Eagles—a widespread distribution of passes, converting turnovers into points while not turning the ball over and a defensive line that applies continuous pressure on Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, a turnaround season and winning streak can and will continue.
Statistical information provided by ESPN.com
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