Coach: Team is used to big-game pressure
Games since Nov. 4 have been do or die for Washington.
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.