- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 3, 2006

Eighteen NFL teams have winning records since the start of 2005, but only the Kansas City Chiefs have been as streaky as the Washington Redskins. During its 27 games over the last two seasons, Washington has won or lost at least two straight eight separate times. So while the Redskins know that their playoff hopes remain on life support at 4-7, they also remember how they caught fire last December and won five straight to qualify for postseason for the first time since 1999.

That’s why cautious optimism ruled at Redskin Park last week after Washington’s 17-13 upset of Carolina. Yes, the Redskins probably would’ve lost if young quarterback Jason Campbell hadn’t connected with tight end Chris Cooley for a 66-yard touchdown on third-and-8 with just 4:26 left. Yes, they’re still two games out of a tie for a wild-card berth with just five games left and would lose a tiebreaker to every team ahead of them in the conference except the Panthers. But if the Redskins turned a corner last Sunday, as they did with the victory last Dec. 4 in St. Louis that got them back to .500 …

“During that 5-0 roll, we were physical,” linebacker Marcus Washington said. “We played Redskins football. That’s what we did against Carolina last week.”

Linebacker Warrick Holdman agreed that being physical makes all the difference.

“Last week, we decided to focus on one thing: being physical and let everything else just happen,” Holdman said.

Defensive end Phillip Daniels said the Redskins simply play their best when they’re on the verge of elimination.

“We needed to play every game like our backs were against the wall the way they are now and the way they were this time last year,” Daniels said. “I’m hoping it’s not too late, but it’s a crazy year. We’ve still got a shot. We’re right there.”

Indeed, five NFC teams that Washington is trying to catch — Minnesota, San Francisco, Philadelphia, the New York Giants and today’s opponent, Atlanta — lost last week. All are 6-5 or 5-6 and thus within striking distance. The Giants, in fact, are currently the No. 5 seed, one spot ahead of the Panthers. And New York (home against Dallas), Minnesota (at Chicago), San Francisco (at New Orleans) and Philadelphia (home against Carolina) all have tough games this weekend.

“You do get frustrated because you want to be dominant,” receiver Santana Moss said. “The losses we had last year, I knew it was just a matter of time before we turned it back around. This year is different. We’ve been trying to do so much to the point that you have to pump your brakes a little bit … and go out there and do the things that we can do instead of trying to do this or do that. Last week showed us we can play with any team. We just have to go out there and do it.”

But can they do that for a second straight game? The previous games this year that the Redskins beat winning teams, the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Cowboys, they were pounded the next week by the Giants and Eagles, respectively.

“We just don’t seem to be able to get on a roll and string several wins together,” lamented 15th-year coach Joe Gibbs, whose only previous season without at least two winning streaks came in 2004.

Running back Ladell Betts said: “We can’t keep going on a roller coaster like this. It definitely drives us crazy because we know we’re capable of playing great football. I hope we turned the corner last Sunday, but one game doesn’t prove anything. We’ve got to put together two good games. We’re not getting fat and happy after one win.”

Note — The Redskins promoted kicker Shaun Suisham from the practice squad and waived defensive lineman Ryan Boschetti. Gibbs has never previously kept two kickers active, but he’ll likely have the stronger-legged Suisham kick off today with incumbent Nick Novak kicking field goals and extra points. Boschetti, who made the Redskins as an undrafted rookie in 2004, played in 13 games with two starts the past two years but had appeared in just two games this season.

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