Two weeks ago, the Redskins were flying high at 5-3 with victories over fellow NFC contenders Chicago, Seattle, Dallas and Philadelphia on their resume.
But after losses in the final 75 seconds the last two weeks to Tampa Bay and Oakland, the Redskins are two games out of a playoff spot and searching for answers yet again.
"It's sad to see the same things happen over and over again," said linebacker LaVar Arrington, a six-year veteran who has yet to achieve a winning season or reach the postseason. "The time for talking is over. Either we're going to turn this thing around or it's going to turn out like it always does. ... We still have the opportunity to make a run at the playoffs. It would be a shame to let this opportunity get away."
Washington led Tampa Bay by seven points and had the ball with 3:20 left but lost 36-35. Washington led Oakland 13-3 at halftime but lost 16-13. Couple those results with Dallas' three-game winning streak and the Giants' 4-1 spurt and the road to the playoffs is seriously uphill.
"We're sitting here with sad faces," said running back Clinton Portis, who lost his first two fumbles of the season against the Raiders. "We're 2-5 in our last seven games, and we should have won at least three of them. We need to come out of these last six games at least 5-1 if we want any shot at the playoffs."
Indeed, where last year St. Louis and Minnesota both qualified in the NFC at 8-8, it's looking like 9-7 might not be good enough this year with Seattle at 8-2, Chicago, Dallas, the Giants, Carolina and Tampa Bay all at 7-3 and Atlanta at 6-4.
Sunday's game against San Diego doesn't look very winnable, but the Redskins do still play host to the Cowboys (who have two NFC East road games left), and the Giants (who have two West Coast trips and two NFC East road games to play).
"Obviously, teams have a lead in the division, but I'm just worried and focused on us and the next game," Redskins coach Joe Gibbs said. "We have a lot to play for."
But for how much longer?
Player Personnel Notes
--QB Mark Brunell has just two touchdowns the past four games after compiling 12 in the first six games. Once the NFC's leading passer, Brunell looked every bit of his 35 years against Oakland and is 10th in the league in passer rating at 86.0.
--After playing when the games got out of hand against the 49ers and Giants in October, QB Patrick Ramsey hasn't played this month. Ramsey will be in the NFL next season, but probably not in Washington.
--RB Clinton Portis had a second straight good game when it came to yards per carry against the Raiders (22 for 92, 4.2), but his two fumbles hurt. One set up an Oakland field goal and the other likely cost the Redskins at least three points.
--RB Rock Cartwright stepped up from third to second string in the absence of the injured Ladell Betts against the Raiders. The mighty-mite gained just 6 yards on three carries but contributed a fearless 17-yard grab over the middle. If Betts remains out this week, Cartwright will add KR duty to his role.
--WR Santana Moss had a fairly quiet day against Oakland with just four catches for 53 yards. After recording at least 87 yards in each of the first six games while catching 38 passes, Moss hasn't topped 79 yards in the last four games while catching just 19 balls.
--H-back Mike Sellers suffered a hairline fracture in a rib when he was smacked by Oakland's Isaiah Ekejiuba in the fourth quarter. Sellers, who drew a foolish penalty when he went after Ekejiuba on the next special teams play, will miss at least this week with the injury. Sellers didn't touch the ball on offense against the Raiders.
--H-back Chris Cooley led the Redskins with five catches for 74 yards against the Raiders, pushing his season totals to 46 catches for 543 yards. Only three NFL TEs/H-backs have more yards. Only five have more catches.
--K John Hall improved to 8-for-8 on the season with field goals of 24 and 45 yards last Sunday. However, Hall's kickoffs weren't up to snuff, averaging just the 14-yard line.
--RT Joe Salave'a (four solo stops) played a big part in a third straight excellent game by Washington's run defense, which held Oakland's Lamont Jordan to 52 yards on 27 carries.
--MLB Lemar Marshall returned an interception 17 yards in the first quarter for his first career touchdown and led the Redskins with 10 tackles. However, Marshall was also beaten by speedy Raiders wideout Jerry Porter on a 49-yard touchdown bomb.
--FS Sean Taylor returned after missing the Tampa Bay game with a sprained ankle. Taylor made five tackles and helped hold standout WR Randy Moss to just three catches for 40 yards. However, Taylor was also apparently guilty of not getting over to help LB Lemar Marshall on Jerry Porter's 49-yard touchdown catch.