Playoffs harder to achieve

Just when the Redskins dug themselves out of a major hole, they landed in another one. And, in one week, the Redskins went from a team capable of contending for the NFC East title to one with no room for error. Otherwise they won't make the playoffs.

All that from their 20-14 loss to Dallas on Sunday. With five games remaining, the Redskins (5-6) are locked in a three-way tie for second in the NFC East, along with Sunday's opponent, Arizona, and New York. Also, there are 10 other NFC teams with at least five wins, making the wild card race a tight one.

''Like I said last week, if we lost to Dallas people would forget about the five-game streak pretty fast,'' said Redskins quarterback Tony Banks, who expects to play Sunday despite spraining an ankle against Dallas. ''Now we're below .500--5-6 and 6-5 seems like it's not a big difference, but it's huge.''

Which means Washington can't afford any more losses, otherwise its playoff hopes would hinge on tiebreakers. Of course, Redskins coach Marty Schottenheimer said he's not certain what it will take to make the playoffs.

''Can you tell me what everybody else is going to do?'' Redskins coach Marty Schottenheimer said. ''We've made it a difficult situation, not just [Sunday] but in the first five weeks.''

But the Redskins have proven they're resilient. It's the biggest trait that enabled them to win five straight games. And it's why they shook off Sunday's loss quickly.

''It's not as bad as I thought it would be,'' Redskins tackle Chris Samuels said about the atmosphere at Redskin Park. ''Guys are still keeping their heads up. I thought we would really be down. We're definitely upset, but we have to move on.

''It's a little easier [to take] than the five-game losing streak, even though it was the Cowboys we lost to. When we were 0-5, it was difficult to deal with. Guys were falling apart over here.''

But, even during that period, they expressed confidence in themselves. That confidence will be tested the rest of the season, if the Redskins want to make the playoffs.

''I didn't worry about it when we were 0-5 and I'm certainly not going to worry about it now,'' Schottenheimer said. ''We've got our work cut out for us, but that's never bothered our guys before.''

John Keim covers the Redskins for The Journal Newspapers.

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