Remember the significance of 3-6? That was the record the Washington Redskins had last season when they began their assault on the NFL, en route to an unexpected division title.
Given that no other team seems ready or willing to run away with the NFC East race this season, you can't dismiss the possibility of history repeating itself.
But if it does, it will take a bigger improvement than a year ago.
Yes, there have been signs of late that things have been getting better in Redskinsville. Following the goal-line stand against the San Diego Chargers, and after a fairly dominant offensive first half against the Minnesota Vikings on Thursday, there were plenty of indications that the Redskins had awakened from their early-season slumbers.
But the second-half meltdown at Minnesota came with stunningly bad offensive execution — from converting 9-of-11 third downs in the first half, to 0-for-5 after halftime — and pass protection. Robert Griffin III was under fire most of the game, but he had nowhere to hide in the second half, taking four sacks after avoiding any in the first half.
The Redskins' defense still hasn't shown it can stop anybody. Forget subtle improvements — this unit is allowing 31.9 points per game (that number was 27.6 through nine games a year ago) and is even on the turnover margin (after being plus-7 through nine games in 2012).
Giving up yards is one thing. But the Redskins' defensive success last season was about coming up with the key turnover — it finished the season plus-17 — and clamping down in the red zone. Those things are not happening this season nearly often enough.
Check out the poor gap control and integrity on this Adrian Peterson run:
Even to a player as great as Peterson, that's unacceptable. Worse still, the Redskins allowed injury-prone second-string tight end John Carlson to run freely to the end zone, as the front gets sucked into the play-action fake and the secondary leaves a gaping hole and cannot tackle properly.
Can these problems be fixed in time for the final seven games that includes four divisional contests and three games against teams currently in the playoff mix? It's in the realm of possibilities, but we just have no evidence to suggest that it will. Teams that do those things don't blow 13-point second-half leads and allow beat-up 1-7 teams to run off 20 straight points; and taking the point further, the Redskins have yet to string two good games together.
The records are the same from a year ago, and many of the players know what it takes to get white hot down the stretch. But the task seems even more daunting this time around, given what we've seen to this point.
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