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Elfin's Endzone: Redskins On The Wrong End Of 'Close' Games

2:08 PM, Dec 12, 2011   |    comments
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) runs with the ball as Washington Redskins strong safety DeJon Gomes (24) chases in the second quarter at FedEx Field. The Patriots won 34-27. (Credit: Geoff Burke-US PRESSWIRE)
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LANDOVER, Md. (Elfin's Endzone/WUSA) -- Washington played New England toe to toe on Sunday afternoon in Landover, but as has been the case since they upset the New York Giants in the opener, the Redskins failed to get it done against a winning team again, falling to the powerful Patriots, 34-27.

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Although coach Mike Shanahan and his players constantly talk about how this year's team has much better character than their recent predecessors, he needs to win two of the final three games against the Giants, Minnesota Vikings and Philadelphia Eagles just to match his disappointing 6-10 Washington debut of 2010. A major reason for that failure is that Washington keeps coming up short against quality foes.

As maddening as the 2010 season of Albert Haynesworth and Donovan McNabb was, the Redskins went 4-5 against teams that were .500 or better, beating the Eagles, the NFC North champion Chicago Bears and the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers as well as the 8-8 Jacksonville Jaguars. Oddly, Washington was 2-5 against teams with losing records last year.

The results have been much different this year although the overall record -- 4-9 vs. 6-10 -- is very similar. Since beating the Giants in Week 1, Washington has lost twice to NFC contender Dallas Cowboys and once each to the NFC West champion San Francisco 49ers, once to the AFC contender New York Jets and now to the AFC East-leading Patriots. That 1-5 mark against winning teams is much worse than the Redskins' 3-4 record against fellow losers Arizona, St. Louis, Carolina, Buffalo, Miami, Seattle and the Eagles.

This is the progress that we're supposed to be seeing in the second year of a coach's regime? Of the six previous men who have coached the Redskins at least two seasons since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, four improved from year one to year two: George Allen (9-4-1, wild card loss, to 11-3, NFC title); Joe Gibbs I (8-8 to 8-1, Super Bowl title); Norv Turner (3-13 to 6-10) and Joe Gibbs II (6-10 to 10-6, divisionalt round defeat).

Shanahan's two predecessors who failed to get better: Steve Spurrier (7-9 to 5-11) and Jim Zorn (8-8 to 4-12) didn't make it year three for owner Dan Snyder. And yet, Shanahan seems certain to be retained in 2012 when the Redskins figure to be under the direction of a rookie quarterback whose likely growing pains would buy the coach a fourth season.

The Redskins were victimized by the majority of the controversial calls by referee Jeff Triplette and the rest of his lousy officiating crew, but as has been true all too often during the two decades since they last clutched the Lombardi Trophy in triumph, the guys in burgundy and gold crumbled when the chips were down.

Washington and New England were tied with 4:27 to go, but the remaining score belonged to the visitors. The previous Sunday against the Jets, the Redskins led 16-13 with 4:50 left but lost 34-19. Two weeks earlier against the Cowboys at home, Washington led 17-10 with 14:44 remaining and lost 27-24 in overtime. And in the previous game against Dallas, the Redskins led 16-12 with 7:00 to go but lost 18-16 in overtime. Add all four games up and that's 61-10 for the opponents.

In short, even though their five losses to winning teams have come by an average of just seven points, when the game's on line, the Redskins aren't nearly that close to the contenders. And that tells you how far away Shanahan and Co. are.

W*USA9's Redskins Insider, David Elfin, has covered sports since he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in 1975. He is the Washington representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and is the author of five books on the Redskins including the new "Washington Redskins: The Complete Illustrated History."

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