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Have the Redskins Found the Winning Formula?

Have the Redskins Found the Winning Formula?

Do the Redskins have their swagger back?

We thought that they did following their thrilling overtime win over Jacksonville in Week 4. The carryover momentum from that game, however, lasted less than two quarters into their next game. That was when the Giants started to take control of their contest in the Meadowlands.

That was the first of three straight losses. The string was broken with another exciting victory when the Skins snatched victory from the jaws of defeat by blocking Mike Vanderjagt’s last-second field goal attempt and getting the game-winning three points from Nick Novak. Sometimes a win like that can get a team on a roll. But, no, the offense couldn’t generate anything consistently in Philadelphia the next week, the defense gave up some big plays and it was back to square one in the momentum department.

After last Sunday they have another chance. The Redskins played well on both sides of the ball, something that they didn’t do in those other games mentioned above, and pulled out a hard-earned 17-13 win over the Carolina Panthers, who thought that they were about to get on a serious roll.

Now some of you may scoff at the notion that last Sunday’s game represented anything that a team could build any momentum off of. Carolina’s play calling was frightfully bad at times (how could you call and throw so many six-yard passes on third and eight?) and Washington did have to hang on for dear life at the end. The game was not a thing of beauty by any stretch.

But nine out of every ten games in the NFL are ugly wins for one of the participants. The formula that the Redskins used on Sunday was tried and true. The defense kept them in the game while the offense moved the ball enough so that the D could stay off the field for a while after they stopped the Panthers. Because of the effectiveness of the defense the offense didn’t have to press. They knew that they didn’t have to score every time they got their hands on the ball. Because Jason Campbell was playing well enough to move the chains, the defense didn’t get tired and desperate.

Eventually, good things happened for the Redskins. A blocked punt, a deadly accurate pass from Campbell to Chris Cooley, a fourth-down tackle and a clinching interception and the Redskins walked off smiling.

In winning the Redskins found their formula for success. They couldn’t bottle up what they did against the Jaguars because you’re not going to score 36 points every game. Their takeaway from the Dallas win was to play hard until the clock says 0:00—and even for a play after that—and good things can happen. But you can watch NFL games for a decade and not see an ending that unfolds like that one did. With the Sunday Ticket and a remote you can see around a dozen every week like the Skins beating Carolina. If the Redskins can continue playing like that they will be able to climb their way back to respectability.

Moderation is a virtue

The Redskins had one of the easiest training camps of any NFL team this summer. Joe Gibbs scheduled very few two a days, minimal sessions in full pads and they had a day off less than a week after camp started.

On the other end of the scale was the camp conducted by Atlanta’s Jim Mora Jr. Most days there were two practices with at least one of them in full pads. Union rules prohibited him from scheduling three a days and having the players wear full pads in meetings and at lunch, but if he could have he probably would have. It took so long for the players to get a day off that they felt like they were being paroled when they finally got one.

Early in the season it sure did look like Mora had it right and that Gibbs needed to go to school on the younger coach. At the end of October the Falcons were 5-2 and looking like they were on their way to the playoffs.

But then the leaves started to fall and so did the Falcons. The are 0 for November, losing four straight this month.. Has the brutal regimen in August contributed to their collapse in the fall?

Of course, we can only guess. But one eye-popping stat suggests that they may well be running out of gas. In the second half of the four games of their current skid they have been outscored by a staggering aggregate of 67-20.

When the first of January rolls around it’s likely that the Redskins and Falcons will wind up in the same spot, around .500 and on the outside of the playoffs looking in. The Redskins can blame part of their woes on their light camp workload not having them ready to go when the season started. They will be fresh in December but they will be playing golf in January. Atlanta may well have flamed out and peaked too early. Perhaps both organizations need to consider some degree of moderation in how tough or how easy they are on their players during the summer so that they might still be playing well into the winter.

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Need to Know: If Kirk Cousins leaves, with the Redskins rebuild or retool?

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Need to Know: If Kirk Cousins leaves, with the Redskins rebuild or retool?

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, January 16, 57 days before NFL free agency starts.

Timeline  

Days until:

—NFL franchise tag deadline (3/6) 49
—NFL Draft (4/26) 100
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 236

Nickel coverage—Five Redskins questions

Taking a look at some of the key questions surrounding the Redskins, sometimes coming up with more questions in the process. Yes, it's going to be that kind of offseason. 

What will the Redskins do at left guard? It would be better for the Redskins to find their left guard in the draft, but assuming that the successor is picked after the second round, they will want someone to start until the rookie is ready. That could be Arie Kouandjio or maybe a veteran free agent.

Can the Redskins make do with what they have at running back? The short answer is no. The running back situation needs attention. It’s hard to picture Samaje Perine and Rob Kelley forming a formidable tandem, or even a very good one. I’m wary of spending a high draft pick on an RB, but the success of the likes of Todd Gurley and Leonard Fournette have to be factored into the thinking.

Are the Redskins OK with Zach Brown and Mason Foster at inside linebacker? For the time being they are, assuming that they are able to sign both of the unrestricted free agents, however the Redskins need to continue to build that position. That means continuing to develop Josh Harvey-Clemons to use in nickel situations and spending draft resources there. Even if Brown and Foster are back, the Redskins might be smart to grab Roquan Smith out of Georgia if he’s there in the first round.

If they are without Kirk Cousins, will the Redskins rebuild or retool? This is a key question for the organization. If Cousins leaves, do they just try to plug in the best available/affordable quarterback they can find and roll on with the same basic personnel with which they have hovered around .500 the last three years? Or will the make other changes, perhaps moving on from Josh Norman and Jordan Reed to save cap money for future seasons and give their younger players a chance to establish themselves? The latter might be the better way to go but this organization rarely considers short-term pain for long-term gain.

If Junior Galette leaves, who replaces him? While Galette did not light it up in the sack department, he put plenty of pressure on opposing quarterbacks. He is likely to leave since he would remain behind Preston Smith and Ryan Kerrigan on the depth chart if he re-signed in Washington. Can they rely on 2017 second-round pick Ryan Anderson to take a giant leap in his sophomore season? Will they try to lock up free agent Trent Murphy and hope that he can bounce back from an ACL injury he suffered last August and regain his nine-sack form of 2016? I don’t see how they can rely on Anderson to suddenly provide pressure after recording zero sacks this past year. Whether it’s Murphy or another free agent, someone with a better track record has to be in the picture. If Anderson improves enough to move ahead of that player on the depth chart, so much the better.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

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Where does Stefon Diggs' remarkable catch rank among some of the best NFL playoff walk-offs?

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Where does Stefon Diggs' remarkable catch rank among some of the best NFL playoff walk-offs?

There is nothing quite like January playoff football and Sunday night's Vikings vs. Saints game further proved this point.

In case you have been off the grid the past 12 hours, the Minnesota Vikings literally got a last second win against the New Orleans Saints.

With 10 seconds left in the fourth and facing a 3rd and 10, quarterback Case Keenum heaved the football near the sideline to wide receiver Stefon Diggs, who dodged two defenders while managing to stay inbounds for a 61-yard touchdown as the clock expired. 

It was one of the most remarkable playoff walk-off wins, if not the most remarkable one, in football.

So, where does it stand among the others?

RELATED: FORMER TERP PLAYS HERO IN VIKINGS' MIRACLE PLAYOFF WIN

Broncos vs. Steelers 2011 AFC Wild Card game: Remember Tim Tebow's 80-yard overtime touchdown to Demaryius Thomas during the 2011 Broncos vs. Steelers AFC Wild Card game? It was the first and last snap of overtime and it was wild.

Mile High Miracle: On third and three with 43 seconds left in the game, Ravens' Joe Flacco launched one towards wide receiver Jacoby Jones, who got in front of the Broncos receiver and ran the ball in for a 70-yard game-tying touchdown. The Ravens would eventually go on to win the game in double overtime. Some could argue it was the defining moment in the Ravens' Super Bowl run. 

Cardinals vs. Steelers Super Bowl XLIII: Under the brightest lights of all, Ben Roethlisberger found Santonio Holmes with 43 seconds in the fourth in the back of the end zone for a toe-dragging, Super Bowl-winning catch. 

RELATED: WHAT REDSKINS CAN LEARN FROM THIS WEEKEND'S PLAYOFF GAMES

Saints vs. 49ers 2012 NFC Divisional game: Sunday's loss wasn't the first time the Saints have experienced a fourth quarter letdown. Back in 2012, Alex Smith threw one to the endzone on 3rd-and-three with 14 seconds left that sealed a win.

While these are only a few, we can't wait to add more to the list in years to come.