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Fletcher: 'You can feel the excitement'

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Fletcher: 'You can feel the excitement'

In summary: Only one thing mattered to 37-year-old London Fletcher following Monday night’s 17-16 victory over the Giants: The Redskins' season remains relevant. 

“Playing meaningful games in December, it’s just a different atmosphere, a different feeling, a different preparation,” Fletcher said after gutting out another game on a gimpy ankle. “You can tell the excitement of the fans, the city. Just coming into the stadium, you saw how many people were out here early, ready for this game.”

Fletcher was asked if he could recall the last time FedEx Field rocked the way it did Monday. 

“This is the loudest I’ve seen FedEx since the Dallas game, the last game [of the] 2007 season,” he said after a moment of contemplation. Fletcher was referring to the Redskins’ wild-card clinching victory over the Cowboys in the 2007 season finale.

With their third consecutive win, the Redskins, at 6-6, have vaulted themselves back into the thick of the NFC East and wild card races. The Giants, meantime, fell to 7-5, while the Cowboys also sit at 6-6 after Sunday’s victory over the Eagles.

If you think about it, if we lose this game, we go down three games to the Giants,” Fletcher said. “It would have been highly unlikely for us to have a chance of winning the division. But now we’re a game back. We just made it very interesting.”

Interesting, indeed. 

Turning point: Early in the fourth quarter, the Redskins found themselves trailing 16-10. But Robert Griffin III directed a methodical, 12-play, 86-yard drive that culminated with an eight-yard Pierre Garçon touchdown reception that put the home team ahead for good. Garçon finished with eight receptions for 106 yards – three yards shy of his season-high.

“We came through when we needed to,” Garçon said. “That’s what a good team does when their back is against the wall.”

Offensive play of the game: Late in the first quarter, Josh Morgan scored his first touchdown of the season in bizarre fashion. The wide receiver was the pitchman on an option when Griffin, tucked the ball and turned up field. Griffin, however, fumbled at the Giants’ 13-yard line, bobbling the ball up in the air – and right into the hands of a streaking Morgan.

“It just bounced my way,” Morgan said laughing. “We game planned the option. We ain’t game-planned for him to do it the way he did it, but he made it happen. It worked out.”

It marked the second time this season a wide receiver recovered a Griffin fumble for a touchdown. In Tampa, Garçon pounced on a loose ball in the end zone.

Defensive play of the game: In the fourth quarter, the Redskins were clinging to a one-point lead when the pass rush finally delivered. Linebacker Rob Jackson sacked Eli Manning for a seven-yard loss at the Giants’ 14-yard line. The sack forced the visitors’ to punt and swung the momentum toward the Redskins for good.

Special teams play of the game: As important as Kai Forbath’s 33-yard field goal in the second quarter proved to be in a one-point victory, the Redskins benefited greatly from Lawrence Tynes missing a 43-yarder a few minutes earlier. Tynes entered the game tied for the league lead in field goals made (29) and was 6 of 7 from 40-49 yards out.

Injury report: Tackle Trent Williams said after the game that his bruised thigh, “felt terrible.” But he played through the pain and helped pave the way for the Redskins’ 207 yards on the ground. 

…Fletcher did not arrive in Landover wearing anything on his sprained left ankle but he left wearing an immobilizer boot. He said he did not reinjure the ankle and that the boot was for precautionary reasons.

…Giants tackle Sean Locklear was carted off the field in the fourth quarter with a knee injury, according to Giants Coach Tom Coughlin.

Quote of the day: Coughlin on his team scoring only three points in the final 30 minutes: “This is not real complicated. I don’t know what happened in the second half. They certainly didn’t come out and play.”

Quote of the day, Part II: Griffin joking about the fumble that resulted in a touchdown: “We’ve already gone through this. It was a pitch to Josh. I knew he was going to be there and I’m going to stay with the story.”

Game ball: Alfred Morris gets it after rushing for a career high 124 yards on 22 carries. With 1,106 yards, he broke the Redskins’ rookie record for rushing yards and moved into a tie with Tampa Bay’s Doug Martin for the league lead among rookies.

“It’s huge,” he said. “So much history here and to be able to do that, it says a lot. It’s a blessing, coming from where I came from. A lot of people didn’t think I was going to make the team. But I made the team. I’ve rushed for 1,000 yards and done a lot of things I didn’t think I was going to be able to do. But I believed in myself. And I have a coach that believes in me, and that makes me push that much harder."

By the numbers: The Redskins became the first team in NFL history to have a rookie pass for 2,000 yards and a rookie rush for 1,000 yards, according to the team.

By the numbers, Part II: The Redskins ended a 10-game losing streak at home on Monday night football. Their last win on MNF was over the Cowboys in Oct. 2007.

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A Madden ratings performance adjustor explains what goes into the job that everyone's jealous of

A Madden ratings performance adjustor explains what goes into the job that everyone's jealous of

Even on a field filled with NFL players, experienced coaches and a few celebrities, Clint Oldenburg stood out. 

It wasn’t because of his stature or that he used to play pro football, either.

It was due to his jacket.

A jacket, which led to a photo, which led to a tweet, which led to unexpected Internet fame, all thanks to the four words written on Oldenburg’s back: “Madden Ratings Performance Adjustor.”

Oldenburg was spending Week 9 at FedEx Field, sent by EA Sports to get more information on Adrian Peterson at that afternoon’s Redskins-Falcons game. The future Hall of Famer is in the middle of a comeback season, so Oldenburg was charged with checking in on him.

4.5 million Twitter impressions later, Oldenburg now knows that countless people are supremely jealous of his weekend vocation.

"I wasn’t really engaging on my cell phone during the game, and then when I was catching my cab to the airport after the game I looked at it and said, ‘Holy crap,’” he said in a recent phone interview.

"I was in shock as to what was happening.”

A fifth-round pick of the Patriots in 2007, Oldenburg also had brief stints with the Jets and a few others, including the Redskins. These days, he spends Monday-Friday working to make Madden’s gameplay better.

But he’s also a part of the Ratings Adjustor team, a small group of evaluators who travel to stadiums, observe players and submit their notes to a fellow employee. That primary analyst takes their notes into account and then has the final say on every player’s precious overall rating, which can fluctuate with each Madden update. 

Now, you may find the idea of sending someone to the site of a matchup to do this gig a bit preposterous. But according to Oldenburg, being there in-person does make a major difference.

"The benefits of the sideline really are for pregame,” he explained. “Just seeing how guys are working in pregame, getting a close-up view of their actual athletic skills, their footwork.”

Oldenburg also likes the “better perspective” he gets once the action kicks off. For example, while focusing on Peterson during the Burgundy and Gold’s loss to Atlanta, he felt like No. 26 missed some cutback lanes, something Oldenburg always finds himself paying attention to thanks to his days battling along the line.

Much like the thousands of social media users who shared various reactions about his job, players take an interest in him as well.

While in Landover, kicker Dustin Hopkins found Oldenburg on the sideline and passed along a request: That day, the team was planning on kicking off short as opposed to through the end zone, so Hopkins wanted to make sure his kick power wouldn't be decreased. 

"They wanna come talk about what we’re doing,” Oldenburg said about the athletes he’s tasked with grading. "Information like that is always valuable."

After his playing career wrapped up, Oldenburg jumped into an internship working on the video game that he loved growing up. “Everything took off” after that 10-week program, and he’s been enjoying it ever since.

"I always had to scratch and claw for everything I got,” he said near the end of the call. "I wanted to find a career that I knew I’d be happy doing.”

In the end, he landed in a career that makes him happy. And as one viral tweet showed, plenty of others would be happy in his role too. 

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Don't look now but Redskins drafts are starting to produce among the NFL's best

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Don't look now but Redskins drafts are starting to produce among the NFL's best

For years, maybe decades, the Redskins did not treat the NFL Draft with the seriousness of the best teams in the league. 

The organization often traded away important picks for veterans, and when Washington did make picks, they missed. 

T.J. Duckett for a third-round selection? Sure.

Malcolm Kelly, Fred Davis and Devin Thomas in the second round? Sure.

A second-round pick for Donovan McNabb? Sure. 

The trade to acquire Robert Griffin III doesn't even need to be mentioned. That trade, while giving up a boatload of first-round picks, at least produced an NFC East title, even if it ended spectacularly. 

Anyway, enough about how things used to be run. Things are run differently now, and the results are obvious. 

The 2018 Redskins defense contains plenty of draft picks. The team found first-round success with Daron Payne and Johnathan Allen, but also late round picks like Greg Stroman and Matt Ioannidis.

Offensively, many of the biggest names came through the draft, even if some are injured now. Jordan Reed, Chris Thompson, Brandon Scherff, Morgan Moses, Josh Doctson. All draft picks, some early, some late, some mid-rounders. 

Add it all up and it shows the Redskins have overhauled their personnel philosophy. The NFL draft has become the centerpiece of team building, not free agency. 

This procedural change was a long time coming, and it's working. 

Keep in mind the above stat means draft picks still playing in the NFL but doesn't necessarily mean still playing on the team that drafted them. For the Burgundy and Gold, that means players like Kendall Fuller of the Chiefs, Ryan Grant of the Colts, Spencer Long of the Jets and Brian Orakpo of the Titans. 

Bigger picture, however, it means the Redskins are drafting and drafting well. Nearly half of the current 53-man roster came from Redskins draft picks, and that doesn't include undrafted success stories like Quinton Dunbar, Maurice Harris and Danny Johnson. 

The Redskins have become a team focused on acquiring more picks in each draft, even letting their own home grown players walk to pile up compensatory picks. 

It's a formula many successful teams like the Packers and Patriots have used for a long time.

In Washington, it's a relatively new way to design the roster, but it seems much more effective than the old way. 

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