Fresh off a consequential victory against the Browns our beloved Redskins are now 8-6. They now sit atop first place in the NFC East. In the midst of yet another playoff push, the Redskins appear poised to lock up the division crown. What is even more surprising, is the correlations between the Redskins previous two playoff pushes.
From memorable starts, to abysmal midseason play, and even the death of a teammate, the Redskins have overcome insurmountable amounts of adversity through those seasons. In 2005 it was the 3-0 start, the first since the 91' Super Bowl season. That was highlighted by the game against the Cowboys on MNF, in which Santana Moss caught two touchdowns in the final minutes. With the victory, it ended Bill Parcells record of 73-0 when leading by 13 or more points at the end of three quarters.
In 2007 after a 2-0 start, the Redskins defeated yet another divisional opponent on MNF. This time it was the defending NFC East Champion Philadelphia Eagles. This year in the season opener, the Redskins went on the road and beat Drew Brees and the Saints, who are virtually impossible to beat at home. (The legend of the III began)
After a 23-17 overtime loss to the Chargers at home in 2005, the Redskins dropped to 5-6, and were losers of their past three. Ladainian Tomlinson delivered one of the nastiest stiff arms to Ryan Clark I had ever seen in my life on the game winning touchdowns. Following the death of Sean Taylor, the Redskins lost a heartbreaker in front of the "FedEx Faithful". That game is most notably remembered for Coach Gibbs calling back to back timeouts in the final seconds resulting in unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. That loss extended the team's losing streak to four. Just when you think it couldn't get any worse, the Redskins fell to 3-6 after a loss to the 1-6 Panthers. Immediately after the game, Coach Shanahan began his "evaluation process". That loss was the completion of a three game losing streak.
In each of the 05', 07' and 12' seasons, the Redskins developed a "rallying cry". Whether it was "5 in a row or we don't go in" 2005, or the tragic death of Sean Taylor in 07', or this year with RGIII being voted team captain after the bye week, the Redskins have found the necessary motivation for their playoff pushes.
The play of the defense and special teams of those stretches have been amazing as well. In 2005 during the Skins five game win streak, they had a +11 turnover margin. Had it not been for a 91 yard kickoff return touchdown by Antonio Brown against the Cardinals, the streak may not have been. With the Eagles trying to play spoiler in 05', Sean Taylor returned a fumble 39 yards for a touchdown that proved to be the game clincher. How could we forget Phillip Daniels four sack game against the Cowboys during that stretch.
In 2007, the Skins defense had impressive outings against the Bears, Vikings, and Cowboys during the four game winning streak. Shawn Springs had 2 INT'S against the Bears. They limited Adrian Peterson to just 27 yards on nine carries. And in the finale against Dallas, they limited Dallas to 147 total yards, while holding the Cowboys to one rushing yard. Although many Skins have resentment towards Shaun Suisham (I am one of those fans) he was a crucial asset to the push in 07. The week before the second Giants game, he went 1-3 against the Bears, At the wind infested Meadowlands Stadium he 3-3 in which the Skins won 22-10. Take away those nine points and the outcome might not have been the same.
Another similarity between these three seasons are the statistics in the running game. It has been well documented the success of the Skins running game this year. During the past five games Alfred Morris has posted three 100+ yard games. Although he didn't reach that number against the Browns(because of Cleveland's commitment to stacking the box with RGIII out) he added two rushing touchdowns. During the five game win streak, "Al-Mo" has had 20+ carries in each game.
In 2007 following the death of Sean Taylor, Clinton Portis played the most inspired football of his career. He did EVERYTHING for the Redskins down the stretch. Whether if it was in pass protection, throwing touchdowns to Antwaan Randle El, or being the "emotional sparkplug" he clearly led the charge that year. In 2005 however, he was even more spectacular down the stretch. In the final five games of the regular season he averaged 26 carries a game, along with 115 yards and a touchdown.
Although Mark Brunell provided sub-par quarterback play in the 05' run, career backup Todd Collins provided stuff of legends. With Jason Campbell suffering a season ending knee injury in the week 14 game against the Bears, the then 36 year old Collins led the Skins to the playoffs. During those four games he completed close to 65 percent of his passes, had a 106.4 quarterback rating. More importantly he had 5 touchdowns and no INT'S.
Another interesting tidbit between the three playoff runs are the matchups between the Giants. In all three seasons the Skins lost the first meetings in gut-wrenching fashion. The first game in 2005, after the death of Wellington Mara the Giants played inspired ball and desecrated the Skins 36-0. Tiki Barber gashed the Redskins for 206 rushing yards. The Skins won the second meeting 35-20. Santana Moss caught three touchdowns(two from Brunell and one from backup Patrick Ramsey).
In 2007, the Giants overcame a 14 point halftime deficit. Limiting the Skins to just 83 total yards in the second half and a goal-line stand in the games final seconds they won 24-17. In the rematch the Redskins won, with Eli having one of the worse games of his career. (18/52 184 yards and a touchdown). We all know what happened this year, with Victor Cruz streaking by three Redskins for the game winning 77 yard touchdown in the Week 7 meeting. On December 3rd however, the Skins won 17-16, largely in part due to the 200+ yards rushing and a Pierre Garcon having one of his better games of the season.
What is even more ironic is that through these pushes, the Skins starting quarterback was injured. In 05' Mark Brunell left the second game against the Giants and Patrick Ramsey led the team to victory. It has already been documented about what Todd Collins has done, but how about a shout out for "Captain Kirk"!!! I mean I don't even know where to start.One thing I absolutely love about him is his mentality. No moment is too big or small. In the Ravens game he was only completed and threw two passes but he made the BIGGEST plays of the game with his touchdown to Pierre Garcon and the two point conversion on the draw to follow. Somehow he managed to over come a miserable start yesterday (four three and outs, a sack, and a pick that lead to a touchdown), and is a key reason why the Skins playoff chances remain alive.
Unsung heroes throughout the stretches have been crucial as well. I could point out the obvious stars (i.e. RGIII, Clinton Portis, and London Fletcher) but lets show these guys some love. Offensive guard Ray Brown, who at the time was 43 years old was kicking ass! He started both playoff games in 2005 against Seattle and Tampa Bay. Kai Forbath who's been automatic, has seemed to solidify the kicking position( If Billy Cundiff was here we WOULD NOT be in this position). How about Rob Jackson? He's had the task of filling the shoes of the injured Brian Orakpo. The past five games he's registered 4 sacks and forced two fumbles, in addition to a interception yesterday.
If our Redskins are to make the playoffs once again, players must continue to step up their level of play. Especially along the offensive line. With Tyler Polumbus and Will Montgomery injured, along with Jordan Black being suspended, guys like Tom Compton need to be ready to play. Starters and veterans must continue to lead by example. It's obvious something special is brewing here, the players, coaches, and fans can feel it. This is a team of destiny. And we control it. In the words of the late George Allen, "THE FUTURE IS NOW"