Coach: Team is used to big-game pres­sure

Games since Nov. 4 have been do or die for Washington.

Austin American-Statesman - - FOOTBALL - Byjoseph White Coach Mike Shana­han says he will tell his play­ers they’ll re­mem­ber this Dal­las game for the rest of their lives. NICK WASS / AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

WASHINGTON — It has some­thing like the feel of 2005, when some­one posted a sign that read “Five in a row or we don’t go!” in the locker room.

The Washington Red­skins, 5-6 at the time with­out much of an of­fense, then some­how rolled off five straight to claim a wild-card berth.

But, really, 2012 is some­thing else al­to­gether.

Th­ese Red­skins were 3-6 on Nov. 4. They had just lost what coach Mike Shana­han had pro­claimed a “must win” against the Carolina Pan­thers, who en­tered the game 1-6.

As it turned out, that Pan­thers game wasn’t a must win. But ev­ery game since then has been.

Six vic­to­ries later, the Red­skins (9-6) are play­ing for this year’s di­vi­sion cham­pi­onship, at­tempt­ing to be­come the first team since the 1996 Jack­sonville Jaguars to rally from 3-6 to the play­offs.

What a sight it will be, there­fore, when the Red­skins and Cow­boys (87) meet Sun­day night, a game flexed to prime time to mark the end of the NFL’s reg­u­lar sea­son.

The win­ner takes the NFC East. Dal­las will be elim­i­nated from play­off con­tention with a loss. Washington can lose and still get a wild-card spot, but only if Chicago and Min­nesota lose ear­lier in the day. Shana­han said he will tell his play­ers that it will be a game they’ll re­mem­ber for the rest of their lives. The fact they’ve been play­ing on the brink for a month and a half should have them well pre­pared.

“I think they get used to the pres­sure,” the coach said Mon­day. “Over the last six weeks, they knew ev­ery game was do-or-die, and they’re used to that sce­nario.”

The Red­skins turned it around by fol­low­ing the lead­er­ship of rookie quar­ter­back Robert Grif­fin III. His de­meanor has lifted the en­tire fran­chise and he showed in Sun­day’s 2720 win over the Philadel­phia Ea­gles he can win even when he’s not as much of a run­ning threat be­cause of a sprained right knee.

There’s also rookie run­ning back Al­fred Mor­ris, whose 1,413 yards puts him within range of Clin­ton Por­tis’ fran­chise record of 1,516. And mid- sea­son pickup place­kicker Kai For­bath, who had a game ball shipped to the Hall of Fame on Mon­day af­ter break­ing the record for most con­sec­u­tive field goals to start an NFL ca­reer.

Washington has ex­or­cised sev­eral de­mons this year. It ended an eightgame los­ing streak against rookie quar­ter­backs; a 10game home los­ing streak on Mon­day nights; an 0 for 6 fu­til­ity against the Cow­boys in Thanks­giv­ing games; and a four-year hold on last place in the di­vi­sion.

Now they can clinch their first di­vi­sion ti­tle since 1999.

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