By Ryan Decker
When the Washington Redskins (6-5-1) record for this season was announced, it looked incredibly tough, and there’s no better example of its toughness than the final six weeks.
Washington was to play in Dallas on Thanksgiving on a short week, then go to Arizona, to Philadelphia, and over the course of the final three weeks host Carolina and the New York Giants with a road trip to Chicago in between.
Based on last season’s standings (Carolina and Arizona winning their divisions) and this April’s draft (Dallas, Philadelphia, and NYG getting better) it was a gauntlet for the 2015 NFC East champs. But based on this season, most would say that the Skins trip to Jerry World was the only for-sure loss.
Two games into that stretch, and Washington is 0-2. The Redskins 31-23 loss Sunday was just another missed opportunity; possibly one missed opportunity too many.
After starting the regular season with a pair of losses, Washington won four straight contests before losing late to Detroit, tying with the Bengals in London, and then defeating a pair of NFC North opponents, Minnesota and Green Bay, inside FedEx Field.
Sitting at 6-3-1 heading into the home stretch of the year, Jay Gruden’s team looked like the second-best team in the NFC East, and quarterback Kirk Cousins looked like he was indeed the franchise QB the organization has been searching for for sometime. Cousins even played fantastic against the Cowboys on “Turkey Day” and certainly was not to blame for the loss.
It’s the defense that was to blame, and you can argue has been to blame all season for this team. Sure the running game has left a lot to be desired, the receivers at times have had troubles catching passes, and Cousins himself hasn’t played spotless but he’s done just about everything you ask of a quarterback – giving the team a chance to win.
The defense though has been the constant shortcoming in DC.
Nothing new for Redskins fans but disappointing nonetheless.
Prior to Sunday’s game the final five games remain on Washington’s schedule all seemed winnable.
Arizona has been one of the biggest disappointments in the league this year, Philadelphia has surely regressed since the teams’ Week 6 meeting, Carolina has been a shell of what it was a year ago, Chicago is just plain bad and the Redskins has already beaten the Giants once this year.
Adding in the loss to Dallas, most would agree Cousins and company should at worse go 4-2 in that stretch, needing to keep pace in the playoff race, as well as Cousins needing to continue to play well in another contract season.
Well just two games into final six-game stretch, and the team already has two losses.
Washington can’t afford to lose any more games. It’s already out of the final Wild Card spot, trailing Tampa Bay, which has a favorable schedule coming up.
The tie to the Bengals and the loss to the Lions both hurt. Both were games in which Washington either lead late or had multiple chances to win.
Each game goes down in the books as a missed opportunity, as does Sunday’s loss in Arizona.
This may be football, America’s favorite sport, but in America’s Pastime (baseball) the rule is three strikes and you’re out.
Washington may not be out yet, but another strike – or in its case loss – will surely end playoff hopes early in what was a very promising season just a few short weeks ago.
Gruden mentioned as much after the game yesterday.
“There’s no talk about playoffs over here. We’re trying to win the next game. We’re not even close to thinking about the playoffs right now. A lot’s going to happen these last four games. If we get an opportunity to play in (the playoffs), great. If not we’re going to do the best we can against Philadelphia.” — Jay Gruden to reporters
Washington may have the second-best passing attack and a top 10 scoring offense, but its defense which ranks towards the bottom of the league in most major categories is what will potentially hold the Redskins out of the playoffs.
Even if Gruden and company won’t talk about the playoffs, the media will do the talking for them. It’s simple the rest of the way.
Win and get it; lose and you’re out.