December 25, 2012 in Sports

This time, it really is a ‘must-win’ game

Redskins, once 3-6, on verge of playoffs
Joseph White 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.

Or maybe it’s more like 2007, when the Redskins dropped to 5-7 following a coaching blunder: Joe Gibbs’ decision to call back-to-back timeouts, resulting in an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. That allowed the Chicago Bears to move much closer to kick a winning field goal.

Nevertheless, riding a swell of emotion in the aftermath of the death of safety Sean Taylor, those Redskins took their next four and again claimed a spot in the playoffs – beating the Dallas Cowboys, of all teams, to finish the job.

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.

And while Shanahan can massage it all he wants – and he’s tried to, in many different ways – he clearly no longer had realistic postseason goals when he spoke after that game.

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 (8-7) 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 the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings lose earlier in the day.

“It is two great franchises playing hard to beat one another, and that is good stuff,” Redskins tight end Chris Cooley said.

© Copyright 2012 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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