The Washington Redskins are exactly where they should be after six games following Sunday's 21-19 squeaker over visiting Arizona. But don't get deceived by their 4-2 record, which is good enough for the NFC's sixth and final playoff berth at the moment.
Washington has beaten winless Miami at home in overtime (thanks in part to winning the overtime coin flip), held on to edge the Cardinals when Neil Rackers' last-second 55-yard field goal try drifted just wide and pounded the Lions, who win on the road as often as the Democrats win in Wyoming. The Redskins deserve some props for winning in Philadelphia in Week 2, but the defending NFC East champion Eagles are just 2-4.
The Redskins blew a 14-point halftime lead and lost at home in Week 3 to the then-winless New York Giants, lost a 14-7 halftime lead last week and fell at Green Bay and nearly lost to the Cardinals despite leading 21-6 as the fourth quarter began.
"It shouldn't have been close at all," defensive end Phillip Daniels lamented. "It was tough. We keep saying it, but when are we going to actually finish (strong)? I'm happy with the victory, but we've just got to learn how to finish."
And now the schedule really gets tough. The Redskins play four of their next five games on the road, starting with next Sunday's Mission Impossible at New England.
Washington's offense, which stalled in the second half against the Giants and the Packers, was ineffective all afternoon against Arizona. Sure, center Casey Rabach (strained groin) was inactive for the first time in his three seasons as a Redskin, but left guard Pete Kendall and right tackle Todd Wade, who had missed practice time last week, started and played the whole way.
But that's not enough to explain associate head coach Al Saunders' ultraconservative game plan which produced 10 first downs, 160 yards and 14 points. Coming at home against a so-so Arizona defense, that's less excusable than were the 13 first downs, 225 yards and 14 points at Green Bay in a game in which Rabach, Kendall, Wade and receiver Santana Moss all left with injuries.
Quarterback Jason Campbell completed a 26-yard pass to Antwaan Randle El on Washington's fourth snap of the third quarter, but that was the extent of the downfield passing game against Arizona. Tight end Chris Cooley and receiver Santana Moss hardly saw the ball while combining for 11 yards on three catches. No wonder Clinton Portis and Co. managed just 73 yards on 28 carries.
"I thought Al called a great game," coach Joe Gibbs said with a straight face. "We tried to just do the things that we felt we could do. We probably could have taken a few more shots than what we took, but at the (same) time, you have to be able to run the ball (at the end). I don't think (the offensive line) limited us a lot. The effort was there. It's just we couldn't sustain drives."
A similar game plan won't come close to working against the 7-0 Patriots.