Redskins grapple with realities of woeful season

David Elfin, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

ASHBURN, Va. -- With only Sunday's finale at the New York Giants remaining, the Washington Redskins are 3-12, one loss from matching the 1994 rebuilding project of rookie coach Norv Turner for the most defeats in franchise history.
The ugliness of 1994 was expected after the collapse in 1993 under one-year head coach Richie Petitbon. This year's collapse follows a season in which the Redskins went 10-6 and won the NFC East title campaign, and all the wanted starters returned for two-time Super Bowl-winning coach Mike Shanahan.
The Redskins, who won their first division title in 13 years thanks to a seven-game winning streak, are riding a seven-game losing streak heading into their rematch against the Giants, who overcame a 14-0 deficit to win 24-17 in Week 12 at FedEx Field.
"It'd be tough to go out with eight straight losses," said Washington cornerback DeAngelo Hall, one of seven current defensive starters who are unsigned for 2014.
The Redskins can cite one-point defeats the past two weeks as progress after they weren't very competitive during much of the previous four games. Shanahan can say that his players haven't quit. However, Washington's only victories came against 4-11 Oakland -- after falling behind the injury-riddled Raiders 14-0; the Chicago Bears, who were clobbered 54-11 Sunday night by the Philadelphia Eagles with the NFC North crown there for the taking; and the San Diego Chargers, thanks to a goal-line stand in the final minute.
The 7-0 tear that won the NFC East last December was the exception that proves the rule for the now forlorn franchise. Washington is 17-39 in regular-season play otherwise under Shanahan, 78-129 (minus the 7-0 run and similar 5-0 and 4-0 spurts that produced wild-card berths in 2005 and 2007 under Joe Gibbs) following Dan Snyder's 14 full offseasons as team owner.
Washington was a team that usually found a way to win during its glory days for Hall of Fame coaches George Allen (1971-77) and Gibbs (1981-92). The Redskins won five NFC championships and three Super Bowls during those 22 seasons. In 21 seasons since, they have two playoff victories.
For more than a generation now, the Redskins are a team that finds a way to lose, as they demonstrated again in Week 16 when they led the archrival Cowboys 23-14 at home with barely nine minutes left. Dallas' horrid defense, which surrendered points on 12 consecutive second-half series over three games, limited Washington to one first down during the Redskins' remaining two possessions. Meanwhile, the Redskins' defense, which held the Cowboys to seven points in the span of more than three quarters, surrendered 10 points and two critical fourth-down completions, the second for the touchdown that won the game 24-23.
"Worst feeling in the world," said inside linebacker Perry Riley, who teamed with Hall to dump DeMarco Murray for a 9-yard loss on third-and-goal before the running back beat them to the pylon a play later. "I'd rather how we lost to the Chiefs (45-10 in Week 14) than how we lost today. Fourth-and-goal at the 10, you've got to get a stop, and we didn't."
The Redskins also didn't get nearly as a sharp a performance from second-year quarterback Kirk Cousins. In his third career start, Cousins passed for 197 yards while posting a 71.2 passer rating compared to his 94.8 rating the previous week against the Atlanta Falcons and a 104.4 mark in beating the Cleveland Browns during his starting debut in Week 15 of 2012.
"Kirk's ... been given a tough job to do, and he's doing well," said receiver Pierre Garcon, whose 11 catches against Dallas gave him 107 this season, breaking the franchise's single-season record set in 1984 by Hall of Famer Art Monk. "We just have to win as a team."
Adding to Washington's misery was a 62-yard return that the Redskins' league-worst punt coverage unit allowed to set up the Cowboys' first touchdown. All in all, Washington is losing as a team.
"If I had a solution, we probably would have started winning a long time ago," said receiver Santana Moss, whose nine seasons in Washington make him the senior Redskin.
NOTES: WR Pierre Garcon not only broke Hall of Famer Art Monk's 29-year-old franchise record of 106 catches in a season in Week 16, but Garcon also leads the league with 107 catches with one game remaining. Garcon is playing his first full season for Washington after signing as a free agent from the Indianapolis Colts in March 2012. He was bothered by a toe injury for much of last season. He also leads the NFL with 30 third-down catches and ranks ninth with 1,290 receiving yards.

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