- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 3, 2015

DeAngelo Hall has played for the Washington Redskins since midway through the 2008 season, which means he’s walked into the locker room at FedEx Field with his head hung low rather frequently.

That feeling hasn’t hit him much this season. Winners of their last five home games, the Redskins have a chance to win a sixth home game for the first time since 2005 when they host the Dallas Cowboys on Monday night.

“That’s an interesting fact,” Hall said. “You want to always protect your house. That’s kind of the cardinal rule. You go into every camp saying, ‘Look, we want to be great at home. We want to win every home game and we want to fight and claw in every road game and try to come out of there with as many wins as possible.’ That’s kind of always the message.”

Such a message hasn’t often been received. Whereas most teams take the ability to win at home for granted, the Redskins haven’t. Over the past decade, they have won an average of 3.5 home games a season, winning more than four home games, or finishing better than .500, just three times in that span.

At .436, they have the fifth-worst home winning percentage of the last 10 years. Go back to the opening of FedEx Field in 1997, and the Redskins have the fourth-worst home winning percentage, .493, of any team in the league, leaping over the St. Louis Rams by virtue of their 5-1 performance thus far this season.

The success at home would be one thing for a team that’s unaccustomed to winning anywhere, but it’s especially jarring when juxtaposed with its road record. Washington has not won a single road game all season, fruitless in their five away contests.

Explanations? The team doesn’t seem to have one. A number of players couldn’t even theorize this week why they have fallen flat so many times on the road but have been so successful at home. FedEx Field isn’t regarded as a particularly difficult place to play; numerous meaningless late-season games for two-plus decades, as well as a slew of fans of visiting teams infiltrating the stadium, prevent that from happening.

Even the simplest reasoning — that the quality of opponent the Redskins have visited is better than those they have hosted — doesn’t particularly illustrate the issue. Four of the Redskins‘ six home opponents to date are 4-7, and the other two are 5-6.

The Atlanta Falcons and New York Jets each welcomed, and beat, Washington as part of their strong starts to the season, but each enter Sunday at 6-5. The New England Patriots, now 10-1, and the Carolina Panthers, at 11-0, also hosted the Redskins, but by the way those games unfolded, those teams would have won anywhere.

“The most obvious differences, when you just look at playing at home versus on the road, as a quarterback, is the crowd noise, communication, the cadence at the line of scrimmage,” quarterback Kirk Cousins said. “There are a lot of behind-the-scenes factors that play into the mechanics of having a good offense that make it much harder to do that on the road.”

The reverse is true for the defense, as outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan noted. During home games, crowd noise not only hinders communication on offense, but for the Redskins‘ defense as well.

One advantage that can be gained in that situation, Kerrigan said, is when opponents have to go to a silent snap count. Offenses do it when players cannot hear the quarterback’s cadence, which multiplies the number challenges. Linemen must watch the center, preventing them from paying attention to the defense, to make sure they release from their stances on time. Defenses can also watch for visual clues — say, a center nodding multiple times — to time up the snap.

For the Redskins, it’s not as if the preparation for a home game changes, either. While the team’s charter flight will typically leave mid-Saturday afternoon for a road game, players are all required to reconvene at a hotel not far from FedEx Field at the same time in advance of home games. There’s no time in the air, but team meetings, dinners and curfews are all held at the same time to provide everyone with a measure of consistency.

Only the Patriots, at 6-0, and the Bengals, at 5-1, have equaled Washington’s home mark. Some teams routinely count on winning at home. The Redskins, for once, are among them.

“It’s definitely nice,” Hall said. “It’s nice for teams to know that, ‘Hey, they’re 5-1 at home. We’ve got to bring it. It’s going to be a hell of a battle.’ That’s a little bit of respect, but we’ve got a long way to go.”

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