What else could go wrong for the Burgundy and Gold? The Washington Redskins (4-8) are on the brink of having another losing season, with no support outside the locker room to strike any positive hope of success down the stretch with four games remaining.
The Redskins finished the third quarter of the NFL season with a 1-3 record after having two the team’s best offensive weapons—tight end Fred Davis and offensive lineman Trent Williams—suspended for the rest of the season without pay due to violating the NFL policy and program for substance abuse. In addition, inconsistency in offensive execution and play-calling has led to a worn-down defense late in games, and the Redskins have only one thing left to do: Finish their season on a strong note.
“A lot of things haven’t gone our way, but at the same time, we’ve put ourselves in a position in several games to take advantage of our opportunities,” said Redskin quarterback Rex Grossman. “In too many games, we haven’t finished. In too many games, we haven’t done what’s needed to win. I think the team as an organization—I think you can tell that, any time you’re competitive, we give ourselves a chance to win every game. It’s about taking that next step and dominating more of the game so you’re not in those situations at the end.
“It feels like to me that this team is pretty close, but we’re still in that mode of not dominating, not taking charge of the games where it’s not close at the end where anything can happen,” he continued. “That part is frustrating, but we know that we give ourselves a chance to win every game. We’ve got to start finishing and playing better when the chips are down.”
In Week 10, the Redskins welcomed Grossman back to the starting lineup after giving quarterback John Beck an opportunity, as they faced the improved Miami Dolphins (4-8). After a tight battle through three quarters, however, the Dolphins found a way to keep the Redskins’ losing streak alive.
The Redskins’ season started to go into the toilet, but within an up-and-down NFC Conference, Washington was not technically out of the playoff picture.
However, bygones could have been bygones if the Redskins could have beaten their hated rival, the Dallas Cowboys (7-5) in Washington. Week 11 appeared to be the perfect week to end the team’s five-game losing streak, as Grossman and the offense were effective against the new-look Cowboys defense, led by defensive coordinator Bob Ryan’s complex schemes.
Until special teams happened, that is.
Washington kicker Graham Gano missed a 49-yard field goal with 6:14 remaining in the third quarter. That missed field-goal attempt felt as if it would come back to haunt Washington, especially after a hard-fought third quarter.
The Cowboys managed to score two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Nevertheless, late in the fourth quarter, Grossman led the Redskins on a 12-play, 89-yard drive spanning 5:21 to cap a four-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Donte Stallworth with 14 seconds left in regulation, sending the contest to overtime.
With 9:27 left in overtime, Gano had a chance for the key of “Chocolate City” as he attempted a 52-yard field goal, but missed wide right. Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo did his normal duties and led his team 37 yards down the field, starting from their 42, to help set up the 39-yard game-winning field goal from rookie kicker Dan Bailey, 27-24.
The following week, Washington faced off against the Seahawks (5-7), and the Redskins were not sleepless in Seattle as they pulled out a win, 23-17—their first victory since October 2 when they defeated the St. Louis Rams—ending their six-game losing streak after surviving two blocked field goals.
For Week 13, the Redskins were in another hard-fought battle, this time against the New York Jets (7-5). With a little over five minutes left in regulation, the Redskins were ahead, 16-13, before the wheels fell off, or better yet, when the ball came loose.
“Right before the play, Coach [Rex] Ryan came to me on the sidelines and said, ‘Sacks in the fourth quarter win football games.’ So that was the mentality of our whole defense,” said Jets linebacker Aaron Maybin. “So for us to be able to go out and close them out was pretty good.”
The Jets took a 20-16 lead with 4:43 left in the game when, on 3rd-and-10 at the Redskins’ 20, Grossman was hammered by Maybin, causing him to fumble. Two plays later, Jets running back Shonn Greene walked nine yards into the end zone after taking a direct snap from center to make it 27-16, later capping the game with another touchdown for a 34-19 win.
“The last six or seven minutes of the game were really embarrassing,” said Redskins cornerback Kevin Barnes after the game against the Jets. “Those last two touchdowns by them were complete breakdowns by us that we just can’t allow to happen.”
Moreover, there are four games left for the Redskins to highlight the talent they do have as they move forward into next season.
Mathematically, the Redskins are not out of the playoff picture. The issue with the Redskins’ scenario of making the playoffs is that they would need a tremendous amount of help, with better teams needing to lose unexpectedly.
The Redskins could be only two things—a roadblock or road kill.
“We need everything. Unfortunately, I’ve been a part of that a few times,” said Redskins safety Reed Doughty. “They mean everything to this organization, to the fans, to you as a player, you’re being evaluated and what you’re trying to put on film. We’re trying to build a team here.
“Obviously, playoffs are not in the picture this year, but next year, we need to see the young guys step up and we need the old guys really to take leadership,” he continued. “I take pride in trying to put a football team out there every week. We’re out to win, we’re not just going out there.”
In Week 14, the terrific Tom Brady and his New England Patriots (9-3) come to FedEx Field and for Week 15, the Redskins will journey to New York to battle the Giants. The Redskins have the opportunity to hamper these two teams’ seeding for the playoffs, acting as roadblock. Consequently, based off how competitive the Patriots and Giants (6-6) are playing, being road kill could be the Redskins’ fate, especially when playing without key players.
To close out the season at home, the Minnesota Vikings (2-10) will come to Washington for Week 16, where the Redskins could likely give their fans an early Christmas gift with a win on Christmas Eve. Additionally, they could kick off the New Year with a victory in Philadelphia when taking on the Eagles (4-8).
Finishing strong is easier said than done. Clearly, the Redskins are fighters and they will NOT give up on the season, so experiencing a surprise or two will not be a shocker.
As correctly predicted last quarter, the Redskins will finish 1-3 again—unless the Eagles fight each other in their finale.
“A lot of things haven’t gone our way, but at the same time, we’ve put ourselves in a position in several games to take advantage of our opportunities,” said Grossman. “In too many games, we haven’t finished. In too many games, we haven’t done what’s needed to win.
“I think the team as an organization—I think you can tell that, any time you’re competitive, we give ourselves a chance to win every game,’ he added. “It’s about taking that next step and dominating more of the game so you’re not in those situations at the end. It feels like to me that this team is pretty close, but we’re still in that mode of not dominating, not taking charge of the games where it’s not close at the end where anything can happen.
“That part is frustrating, but we know that we give ourselves a chance to win every game,” he continued. “We’ve got to start finishing and playing better when the chips are down.”
Barry Barnes is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand.