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Challenges coming from every angle
Everything points to a tough night for the 6-7 Washington Redskins. They’ve lost four of their past five games. Their immobile backup quarterback will make his first start in a decade against the 9-4 New York Giants‘ league-leading pass rush. And the Giants have whipped them by a cumulative 75-17 the past three years on the road.
What’s more, the Redskins lost all three of their previously most daunting challenges this season, slip sliding away 17-14 in the rain at 11-2 Green Bay, getting crushed 52-7 at 13-0 New England and failing to complete a comeback in a 28-23 loss at 12-1 Dallas.
And yet … in 2004, the 5-10 Redskins closed by upsetting playoff-bound Minnesota. In 2005, they beat the playoff-bound Giants and Philadelphia in sweeping their final five games to make the playoffs for the first time in six years. And this weekend last year, 4-9 Washington dampened New Orleans’ celebration of its NFC South title by stunning the host Saints.
“We always seem to put ourselves in this situation and now we have to get out of it again,” fullback Mike Sellers said.
The Redskins are just 27-34 in the four seasons since coach Joe Gibbs returned to Washington in 2004, but they were 6-3 in the final three games of the first three seasons. The Hall of Famer’s teams were 27-9 in those weeks during his first 12-year Washington tenure.
The Redskins were almost always in a playoff drive of some sort during that era and while they trail the Giants, Vikings (7-6) and Saints (6-7) in the battle for the NFC’s two-wild card berths, they will remain in the race at least through next weekend. The Giants can clinch a third straight playoff spot with a victory tonight.
“It’s like we’ve got three playoff games in a row, actually four starting last week,” Gibbs said, including the 24-16 victory over Chicago 10 days ago, next Sunday night’s visit to the Vikings and the Dec. 30 finale against the Cowboys.
That’s what the Giants usually do to the Redskins at home. After opening Gibbs‘ second era by beating Tampa Bay, Washington committed seven turnovers in a 20-14 loss the next week at Giants Stadium. The next year, New York, playing in memory of beloved owner Wellington Mara who had died that week, pounded the Redskins 36-0. Last year, Washington had righted itself with two straight victories but exited the Meadowlands with a 19-3 defeat after managing just 164 yards of total offense.
“For some reason, we go into the Meadowlands and we always get their best and we don’t play well,” linebacker Marcus Washington said.
“We practice in the cold, the rain and the wind,” said Moss, who played for the Jets from 2001 to 2004. “We don’t have an indoor practice facility like the Giants. Coach feels like this is our kind of weather.”
Redskins assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams agrees.
“You always look for the wind to be howling and snow to come down and all that kind of stuff,” Williams said. “You always like that as a defensive coach … so the more the merrier.”
The Redskins seemed on their merry way to a 3-0 start while dropping the Giants to 0-3 at halftime of the Week 3 game in Washington. The Redskins led 17-3, but the Giants scored three second-half touchdowns and stopped running back Ladell Betts twice at the goal line in the final minute to win 24-17. Five of Washington’s six losses since are by a total of 23 points.
By David Keene
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