The Washington Times Daily - - Sports -

The Red­skins re­sponded to Shana­han’s pub­lic slight, which he backed away from and at­tempted to clar­ify in the com­ing days, and rat­tled off seven con­sec­u­tive vic­to­ries. They be­came only the fourth team since the play­offs were ex­panded in 1990 to reach the post­sea­son af­ter start­ing 3-6, and they did so by win­ning the NFC East for the first time in more than a decade.

That achieve­ment car­ried the Red­skins into this sea­son, where, they fig­ured, another year in the sys­tem with an over­whelm­ing num­ber of the same play­ers would lead to greater suc­cess. As they learned in re­cent weeks, ex­pec­ta­tions can be fleet­ing.

“We just need it all to come to­gether and get it all to click for us,” Grif­fin said Thurs­day. “The only way to do that is to keep push­ing for­ward. What’s a man to do when he goes to work but put his all in ev­ery day? Some­times, he comes up short.”

Last year, un­der the same cir­cum­stances, the Red­skins’ main ques­tion rested within the de­fense. The of­fense had been able to gen­er­ate 381.7 yards and 25.1 points per game, which ranked sev­enth and 10th, re­spec­tively, af­ter that loss to the Pan­thers. The other side of the ball, though, was in the bot­tom in nearly ev­ery ma­jor sta­tis­ti­cal cat­e­gory, in­clud­ing not only yards and points al­lowed but also in others such as sacks and third down per­cent­age.

It was easy, then, to fix the de­fense — and the Red­skins did, most no­tably hold­ing op­po­nents to fewer than 21 points in five of the fi­nal seven vic­to­ries.

This year, the ques­tions are nu­mer­ous, broad and af­fect all three phases of the game. Why can’t the of­fense sus­tain drives? How come the de­fense does? Why are there so many mis­cues on spe­cial teams, es­pe­cially on punt cov­er­age?

“It’s dis­ap­point­ing,” out­side line­backer Brian Orakpo said. “It’s so hard to get a win in the NFL. I wish peo­ple would un­der­stand that. It’s tough. This one hurts, but we’ll be all right.”

The sched­ule won’t be kind. While the Red­skins can make up ground in the NFC East with four di­vi­sion games re­main­ing, in­clud­ing two against the New York Giants, they also will face the resur­gent San Fran­cisco 49ers in a na­tion­ally tele­vised Mon­day night game Nov. 25, the cur­rently un­de­feated Kansas City Chiefs on Dec. 8 and the un­der­achiev­ing At­lanta Fal­cons on the road Dec. 15.

That stretch starts this Sun­day with the Philadel­phia Ea­gles, who de­feated the Red­skins 33-27 in the opener but, co­in­ci­den­tally, were their first vic­tim dur­ing the win­ning streak last sea­son.

“We’ve played some good halves over the last three or four games, but we’ve got to put com­plete games to­gether to get where we want to get,” Shana­han said Fri­day. “The bot­tom line is to be 4-6. When we were 3-6 a year ago, we had one goal, and that was to im­prove and be­come 4-6 — and to do that, we have to have a group ef­fort. … You’ve got to do it col­lec­tively to get it done, and hope­fully, we can do that.”

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