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Redskins' Shanahan shows he still has the touch

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Redskins' Shanahan shows he still has the touch

ASHBURN, Va. (AP) Mike Shanahan's once-unquestioned legacy was fading rapidly.

Now, a seven-game winning streak has not only put the Washington Redskins back in the playoffs, it has ended the personal drought of the coach who won two Super Bowls way back when in Denver.

Seven weeks ago, Shanahan was 14-27 after roughly 2 1/2 seasons in Washington. To fans with short memories, he had become associated as much with Donovan McNabb failures as with John Elway successes. Though often touted as a Hall of Fame coach by his peers, it had been seven years since he coached a playoff team.

Turns out, he still knows what he's doing.

``You understand as a coach: unless you get it done, people forget very quickly what you've done,'' Shanahan said Monday. ``So that's why I think a game like winning the NFC East, you get a game like that, you want to find a way to win it. Because once you do, that momentum starts again. ...

``Unless you take advantage of that opportunity, people forget very quickly.''

The Redskins (10-6), division winners after a 28-18 victory over the Dallas Cowboys in the season finale, will host the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday in the franchise's first playoff appearance since the 2007 season. It's the first home playoff game since a 27-13 win over the Detroit Lions on Jan. 8, 2000.

In Shanahan's history, the more relevant seasons are 1997 and 1998, when he won those Super Bowls with Elway and the Broncos. And 2005, when he made his last playoff appearance with the Broncos. And 2008, when he went 8-8 and was fired, leading to a year out of the NFL before the Redskins hired him in 2010.

Shanahan recalled some of that history Monday, pointing out that the 2006 and 2008 teams were in playoff contention until the final week. He also spoke of the way his current Redskins finally discovered the confidence to get on a roll when another losing season seemed inevitable.

``I'm very proud of this group,'' Shanahan said. ``Because there's a lot of people, when you're 3-6, and you're fighting some adversity, they're not strong enough mentally to really go out there and practice hard, and give themselves a chance to accomplish goals. You've got to have strong character to take criticism and keep on fighting, not worry about what's being said, and just focus on your job. Players, as well as coaches.''

Shanahan certainly heard the criticism when he said the playoffs were no longer a realistic goal immediately after the record dropped to 3-6. He maintains his words were misinterpreted, and his attempts to explain them actually helped the players believe there was still something to play for.

That confusing week seems ages ago. On Monday, Shanahan was clearly in a good mood at his weekly news conference. He joked with a photographer that ``my good side's over here'' and laughed when asked by a reporter whether any players were being suspended this week. The team has a habit of waiting until Shanahan has left the room to announce such bad news.

Asked about the state of quarterback Robert Griffin III's sprained right knee, Shanahan joked: ``I was a little disappointed yesterday because he only averaged 10 1/2 yards a carry.''

On kicker Kai Forbath, who hit an upright to end a streak of 17 made field goals to start a career, the coach said: ``We cut him since he missed that field goal. He's gone.'' Then he recanted with a smile: ``We'll allow him one miss.''

Seriously, Shanahan offered a clue on how he's changed as a coach over the years. Talent, he's learned, isn't enough.

``When you're younger, you're always looking for the best athlete. You always think that athlete is going to get you that championship,'' he said. ``And through experiences you realize that everybody has to know their role. There's only going to be so many great athletes on your football team, and those great athletes, you're hoping that they're your leaders.''

Obviously, Griffin tops that list: The Redskins are 7-0 since he's been made a team captain. But solid locker room guys such as London Fletcher, Barry Cofield, Stephen Bowen, Lorenzo Alexander and a rehabilitated Trent Williams fit that bill, too.

And then there are those hard-to-grasp intangibles: confidence and momentum. The Redskins now have them both.

``I think that's what separates teams,'' Shanahan said. ``Teams that play with a lot of confidence, you get used to winning. You expect to win. You've been in that situation a few times. Whether it's a tough third quarter, it's a tough first quarter or a fourth quarter, and you find a way to win. It's a mindset, a lot of guys believing in each other, concentrating on their job, and in the end finding a way to get it done.

``And when you do that, sometimes you just get used to it. It's one of those things that kind of separates really good teams from average teams.''

Notes: It's been three weeks since Griffin sprained his knee, and Shanahan cautioned it might take a while before the rookie is back to world-class speed. ``Is it a month? Is it a month and a half? You never really know when it's completely healed,'' Shanahan said. ... CB Cedric Griffin's four-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance enhancing substances is over. He will return to practice Wednesday, and the team will decide by the end of the week whether to restore him to the 53-man roster. ``It all depends on what type of shape he's in,'' Shanahan said.

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5 must-see moments from Wizards' blowout loss to Hornets, including Bradley Beal's buzzer-beater

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5 must-see moments from Wizards' blowout loss to Hornets, including Bradley Beal's buzzer-beater

Here are the five best plays or moments from the Wizards' 122-105 loss to the Charlotte Hornets on Friday night...

1. This was a tough one for the Wizards. For the third time this season, they got beaten by the Hornets and for the second straight time it was in a blowout.

They still had their moments, though, including this alley-oop from Tomas Satoransky (11 points) to Markieff Morris (13 points, eight assists, six rebounds). It was the second alley-oop connection for those two in as many games:

PODCAST: WHAT THE SESSIONS SIGNING MEANS FOR SATORANSKY

2. This was a play that encapsulated the Wizards' night. Jodie Meeks drew a flagrant foul on Michael Carter-Williams, but took a hard shot to the head:

3. Kelly Oubre, Jr. had a solid game with 11 points, including this big dunk:

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4. Speaking of Oubre, he helped the Wizards close the first half with a late surge. The real highlight was Bradley Beal stealing the ball and hitting a corner three at the buzzer:

5. Beal ended up with 33 points, six assists and six rebounds. Here's an and-1 he got to go down in the second half:

All in all, it was an ugly performance for the Wizards. To cheer you up, we'll leave you with this young fan who had a great time at Capital One Arena despite the result:

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Wizards suffer lopsided loss against Hornets, who have had their number this season

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Wizards suffer lopsided loss against Hornets, who have had their number this season

The Washington Wizards lost to the Charlotte Hornets 122-105 on Friday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Bad matchup: Despite their poor record, there is something about this Charlotte Hornets team that gives the Wizards trouble. The Wizards lost to the Hornets (26-33) for the third time in three tries this season on Friday night and, aside from a push in the third quarter, they were never really in it.

All in all, it was a dud of a game for the Wizards who were probably due for one. They had won three straight games and eight of 10 since John Wall got injured. They were also coming off a huge road win the night before in Cleveland, a game that started an hour later than usual.

It was a tough turnaround and the Wizards sure looked like it. It was evident in their defense and unforced errors. They did, however, have a decent shooting night. They shot 49.4 percent from the field 16-for-17 from the free throw line.

The Wizards' second unit didn't provide a lift outside of Kelly Oubre, Jr. (11 points). Mike Scott, one of their best bench options, was held scoreless.

PODCAST: WHAT THE SESSIONS SIGNING MEANS FOR SATORANSKY

Ugly first half: The Wizards only trailed by 12 points at halftime, but that score was skewed by a five-point push in the final seconds. The Hornets dominated for much of the first two quarters and did so by hitting threes and forcing turnovers. Those mistakes dug the Wizards a hole they never recovered from.

The Wizards had 10 turnovers in the first half, the same amount they had in their entire game the night before. Limiting mistakes was a big reason they beat the Cavaliers, yet the script was flipped by Charlotte.

The Hornets capitalized with 23 points off those 10 first-half turnovers. The Wizards had 14 giveaways for the games that led to 28 total points. 

Charlotte was 7-for-11 from three at one point in the first half and finished 17-for-39 (43.6%) for the game. That is very uncharacteristic for the Wizards, who entered the night second in the NBA in opponents three-point percentage.

Again, though, the first half ended well as Oubre and Bradley Beal gave the Wizards a jolt in the final seconds:

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Bad defense: The Wizards have played some great defense in recent weeks, but they just didn't have it on Friday night. Most surprising were the guys that hurt them most.

Dwight Howard was limited to 11 points and six rebounds and Kemba Walker didn't score his first points until the final minute of the first half. But others like Frank Kaminsky (23 points), Marvin Williams (15 points) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (14 points) got pretty much anything they wanted.

For Walker, it was a tale of two halves. He was held in check by Tomas Satoransky in the first half, but broke out in the third quarter and finished with 24 points and seven rebounds. Maybe it was tired legs on the Wizards' part, but Walker just kept dribbling until he got space and once he did, he knocked down shots.

Much like Kyle Lowry did a few weeks ago, Walker made adjustments to find success against Satoransky. We haven't seen that happen much since Wall went out, but those two have given him some trouble. Both guys are considerably smaller than Satoransky and very quick. Maybe there's something to that.

Add it all up and this was one of the worst defensive games of the season for the Wizards. They allowed their most points in a game since Jan. 17 against, you guessed it, the Hornets. Only three times this year have they given up more than what they allowed on Friday.

No Sessions: The Wizards did not debut their newest player on Friday night, which was probably to be expected given Ramon Sessions has not had any practice time yet. That is part of why he didn't play, but it's also another indication that he is unlikely to play much with the Wizards. Sessions is on a 10-day contract and is not expected to supplant either Satoransky or Tim Frazier at point guard. Frazier would seem to be the guy in danger of losing minutes, but it was business as usual for him against the Hornets.

Up next: The Wizards are off Saturday before returning to action at home against the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday night. Tipoff is at 8 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington.

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