- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 6, 2012

DeAngelo Hall, Trent Williams and their Washington Redskins teammates are looking forward to running out of the tunnel at FedEx Field on Sunday as fans welcome them back with cheers. The Redskins return home with a bit of momentum after last week’s road win over Tampa Bay improved their record to 2-2 and moved them into a tie for second place in the NFC East.

That the Redskins were competitive during the first quarter of the season is an auspicious sign, considering they are one of four NFL teams that opened with three road trips among the first four games.

You might think returning to FedEx Field would give the Redskins a boost against the undefeated Atlanta Falcons. Visitors, however, have proven it to be eminently conquerable, far from the fortress RFK Stadium was during the team’s glory years. Washington’s seven straight home losses comprise the longest active home losing streak in the NFL.

The Redskins already dropped their home opener two weeks ago, 38-31, to Cincinnati. If they are to return to respectability after four straight last-place seasons, then their results at home must improve.

“You want to look good in front of your own fans,” Hall said. “The game we put on display a couple weeks ago wasn’t who we want to be. It’s huge to come out here and have a good showing for the fans. It’s nice to get wins and things like that, but you want to win games at home, obviously.”

The Redskins are 44-53 at FedEx Field since they last hosted a playoff game there in January 2000. The list of reasons why Washington has no home field advantage is fairly long. Opposing fans always turn out in strong numbers. The local population’s large segment of out-of-town natives contributes to that.

The stadium’s capacity of 85,000 is the largest in the NFL. Tickets always are accessible on the secondary market to opposing fans, even if the Redskins technically have sold out every game since the 1960s.

Coach Mike Shanahan, though, believes the reason for the Redskins‘ recent home woes has nothing to do with the stadium.

“We haven’t been very good,” he said. “We haven’t been very good on the road, as well.”

Fair enough. The Redskins have played only three playoff games since in the 1999 season, and all three have been on the road. Four straight last-place seasons have a way of wearing out a fan base.

The acquisition of quarterback Robert Griffin III, however, has reinvigorated many fans. The energy of Sunday’s crowd will be interesting measure.

Not only is it supposed to rain throughout the game with high temperatures only in the low 50s, but the Washington Nationals begin play in the Major League Baseball playoffs at 3:07 p.m., about midway through the third quarter of the Redskins game.

The Redskins are counting on the crowd to help against Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan and a talented supporting cast that includes future Hall-of-Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez and one of the league’s best receiving tandems in Julio Jones and Roddy White.

“Good thing it’s at home,” defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said. “We hope we have our fans behind us and that’ll help us out.”

Players know they can’t depend on that, though. Ultimately, they need to play better regardless of the venue.

“This would be a huge week if we were playing in Australia,” Williams said. “It really don’t matter. We gotta win this game. It’s what you would call a must-win for us. We’re lucky that it’s at home. We got our fans behind us for this one. We’re going to bring it all.”