Redskins quickly shake early setback

Even as their first-year coach attacked the exhibition schedule as though it were a five-game referendum on his personal worth, the Redskins had a miserable end to their preseason. After three consecutive faux victories, Washington got blown out by the Panthers (47-3) and Jaguars (24-3), making a very unhappy rookie mentor out of Jim Zorn.

“He’s not viewing these games as learning tools, or as a chance to evaluate young players,” Redskins executive vice president Vinny Cerrato said at the time. “Jim is competitive. He’s trying to win.”

It turns out the summer of Zorn’s discontent incongruously paved the way for what could be an amazing autumn in the nation’s capitol, though it took an extra week to get going. Looking back on the team’s dead-fish performance during a 16-7 defeat to the Giants in the Thursday-night season opener, Washington tight end Chris Cooley says it was as if the Redskins were still locked in their disjointed late-preseason mindset.


Photo Clinton Portis, left, and Antwaan Randle El celebrate a TD vs. the Eagles Sunday.

(US Presswire/Howard Smith)



“It felt like a preseason game,” Cooley recalls. “It was a Thursday, it was at night, and we never got in anything close to an offense rhythm. It’s like our season started after Week 1.”

Since then the Redskins have won four consecutive games, including a home victory over NFC West-leading Arizona and back-to-back road triumphs over NFC East rivals Dallas and Philadelphia. They have yet to turn the ball over on offense, and there’s no sense that an October Surprise is lurking to derail them.

It sounds strange, but this is a team that has a very legitimate chance to earn home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.

Washington’s next three opponents – the Rams, Browns and Lions – have a combined 1-11 record. If the Redskins don’t falter, they’ll be 7-1 at the midpoint of the season. After that comes a tough Monday-night test against the Steelers at home, followed by a bye week.

It’s true that the Redskins play in football’s toughest division, but they’ll host all three NFC East foes at FedEx Field in the second half. Could their Nov. 30 rematch against the Giants turn out to be the conference’s pivotal regular-season game?


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