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It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. The infamous old Charles Dickens quote describes the emotional roller coaster of the last two weeks for any supporter of the Washington Redskins. After overcoming all odds the week before against a tough Seattle Seahawks team, it looked more like Washington mailed in their performance against the Minnesota Vikings. The inconsistency has to be driving the bookmakers mad when trying to set the betting odds for the Redskins this week, and it isn’t doing much more for the morale of Redskins Nation.

Just two weeks ago, the average burgundy and gold supporter was swimming with delight after delivering one of the grittiest performances in recent Redskins memory. They fought hard. They performed perhaps above their ability level, and the coaches did a bang up job in getting a decimated team ready to play a surging, solid team in the Seahawks.

But apparently the wheels came off at some point between that game, and this weekend’s 38-30 loss against the Vikes. The Redskins looked like a totally different team.

Gone was the swarming, balls out defense that had given Seattle fits the week before. In fact, Washington didn’t seem to be able to stop Minnesota at all until deep into the second half.

Even then, you could argue that it was really only DJ Swearinger that stepped up his game. The safety became seemingly possessed in the third quarter, and intercepted Case Keenum on two consecutive drives. Up until that point, Keenum had been near perfect. You read that right, Case Keenum had looked near perfect. Swearinger even made big plays on the next two drives after that, but one man can not win a football game by himself. Swaggy still deserves full props though, because in a sea of awful, he was a resounding wave of effort and determination. He was easily the best Redskin on the field on Sunday at Fed Ex.

You could look up and down the lineup on both sides of the ball to try and find another player that played well, it’s doubtful that you could come up with one. Okay, make it two.

Maurice Harris should get an honourable mention, because he was the best Redskins receiver on the day, and he came straight from the practice squad to do so. He hauled in an acrobatic one-handed catch for a touchdown that surely made nearly every NFL highlight reel this week. In doing so, it’s doubtful that he won’t be on the active roster for the remainder of the season. Kudos to Harris for making the absolute most of the opportunity he was given.

The offense obviously ebbs and flows with the play of the quarterback. Kirk Cousins was solid enough through most of the first two quarters, but then disaster struck with less than two minutes to go in the half. Cousins overthrew receiver Jamison Crowder on a whip route, and the ball hit Vikings cornerback Mackensie Alexander right in the numbers.

Three plays later, Vikings tight end David Morgan scored on a one-yard reception. Instead of the Redskins driving the field at the end of the half to go ahead or at least be within one, they were suddenly down 28-17 and Minnesota was starting the second half with the ball.

That was definitely the game’s critical turning point.

The Vikings would score on that opening drive of the second half, and take a commanding 35-17 lead – a lead that the Redskins could not overcome.

Still, despite the untimely interception, it would be tough to hang the loss on Cousins when the defense was so porous. Minnesota scored touchdowns on four of their five first half possessions. After the game head coach Jay Gruden said that the first half was “one of the worst defensive performances we’ve had since I’ve been here”.

No argument there.

Maybe Gruden shouldn’t point too many fingers though, because when a team goes through such a stark contrast in performance from one week to the next, some of that responsibility has to fall to the coaching staff, doesn’t it? Frankly, it’s hard to understand when you consider that you could and should give a lot of credit to the same coaching staff for doing so much with so little the week before.

When all was said and done, the Redskins now find themselves on the wrong side of .500 and looking up at a lot of teams if they want to make the playoffs even as a Wild Card. At 4-5, they will pretty much need to run the table to guarantee themselves of a playoff berth.

That’s a daunting task for any mid-flight team.

When Dickens quipped about the best and worst of times, he added that, “it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…”

Apparently Charles Dickens was a Redskins fan too.

On to the Saints. Hail.

More By Mark Solway

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