The Washington Times - October 31, 2012, 09:02AM

Rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III brought hope to the Redskins, but that hasn’t been enough to keep their season from slipping away. They’re 3-5 at the halfway point after losing three out of four games in October. Although jumping from 5-11 to the playoffs in just one year would be among the most ambitious of expectations, the Redskins still consider postseason qualification to be one of their goals.

In order to finish with a record of 9-7 – the worst possible record we can reasonably expect a playoff team to have – the Redskins would have to go 6-2 in the second half of the season. That’s a steep mountain to climb, especially since the Redskins haven’t won two in a row since Weeks 1 and 2 of last season. If the Redskins are going to do it, though, the first step is beating the lowly 1-6 Carolina Panthers at home on Sunday.

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As Washington begins practicing for that game today, coach Mike Shanahan is aware of the urgency required.

“I think everybody knows that it’s a must-win game when you’re 3-5 at the bye week,” Shanahan said. “If you have any chance at the playoffs, everybody understands at the midway point that you’ve got to start playing your best football or you’re eliminated awful quick. We know statistically it’s not that way, but realistically that’s what happens over the years.”

Shanahan went to say he hopes the Redskins’ patchwork defense will to improve in the second half of the season, just as the banged-up offensive line did a year ago.

If it doesn’t, the Redskins are looking at a fifth consecutive last-place finish.