The past three games have shown how tough it has been for the Washington Redskins to maintain a lead late in a game in the second half of the season. The difference between the first and second half of the season is that the Redskins faced more inferior opponents and were not as competitive in the first eight games as they have been recently.
Following a very uplifting victory against the Denver Broncos in Week 10 at FedEx Field, the Redskins have lost their last three games by a total of seven points with all of them coming down to kicks within the final minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime.
The past three weeks have been tough on everyone watching these games, especially the players.
“It's like no other feeling. Not only this loss (against New Orleans) but the past three weeks have been an emotional roller coaster,” Redskins defensive end Andre Carter said.
Unlike their NFL counterparts with the same 3-9 record or worse, the Redskins have kept the scores close in almost every loss, with the biggest defeat being by 14 points against the Atlanta Falcons.
The Redskins have lost by a total of 53 points this season, while the 3-9 Kansas City Chiefs have lost by a total of 147 points, the 2-10 Detroit Lions have lost by 158 points, the 1-11 Tampa Bay Buccaneers by 153 points, the 1-11 Cleveland Browns by 167 points and the 1-11 St. Louis Rams by 182 points.
The point differential proves how close the Redskins were to changing the outlook of their season in their own eyes and in the eyes of the fans and the media. But instead of being 6-6 and in the thick of the NFC East race, the Redskins are merely playing for pride at this point.
The most recent heartbreak came after the team put up a valiant effort against an 11-0 New Orleans Saints team that looked virtually unstoppable before arriving in Landover, MD this past weekend. The Redskins commanded most of the game, holding three different 10-point leads.
“I think this game is ranked number one,” Carter said, when asked where this contest stacks up among the most entertaining he has been apart of.
“Even though almost doesn't cut it, we have shown that we are constantly getting better and will keep on fighting no matter who we play.”
One player who has been getting better as of late is second-year wide receiver Devin Thomas, who had his first career 100 yard game against the Saints. Thomas caught seven passes for 100 yards and two touchdowns.
“We were very proud of him. I think the younger guys are taking advantage of the opportunity of playing. When they are on the field you can see the maturity and growth from last year to this year. It's always about timing,” Carter said.
“I think he is slowly having an understanding of the game,” he continued. “That being said, he is starting to get in a groove. Once a player is in that mindset, he becomes more of a playmaker and a contributor on the team.”
Like Thomas, quarterback Jason Campbell also had his best career game, passing for 367 yards and three touchdowns. Campbell and the rest of the offense has certainly showed signs of life lately and has helped the team play up to better opponents. Were they motivated by having the NFL’s best offense on the opposing sideline on Sunday?
“I think the offense utilized the momentum in the past two weeks as confidence and faith they were going to be successful. As a team we were focused on not so much on ‘Who are the Saints?’ It was more of ‘Who are the Redskins?’”
Another offense that has improved recently is the Redskins next opponent, the Oakland Raiders. Since their decision to change starting quarterbacks from JaMarcus Russell to Bruce Gradkowski, the Raiders have won two of their last three and have averaged almost 100 more passing yards per game.
“I don't know why JaMarcus hasn't panned out. I haven't studied him as much. Obviously Gradkowski is moving the ball very effectively and controlling the clock,” Carter said.
The last two victories for Oakland have been big upsets against the Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers, both of whom are quality opponents. Following his last-second comeback over the defending Super Bowl champions, Gradkowski is starting to make a name for himself in the bay area.
One bright spot for the Redskins is that the Raiders still rank last in the NFL in passing yards per game. How the improved Raiders passing game fares against the Redskins struggling secondary should be something for fans to watch out for.
“We will prepare for the Raiders similar to all our previous opponents. We won't underestimate them or take them for granted. They have weapons and vice versa. The key to this game [is] the match ups. Know their strengths and exploit their weaknesses,” Carter said.
Under the Helmet:
THN: What was your most favorite pet and why?
AC: I had a German shepherd. She was a great guard dog and was very obedient. Loyal to their masters and love the outdoors.