Redskins lack answers

One question begged to be answered. The Redskins couldn't do it because they don't have the answer. And they haven't been able to find one for some time now.

It's not as if they don't know how to win close games; they've won two games in overtime, a third by two points and a fourth by eight.

But their inability to close out a double-digit lead against the New York Giants and then a nine-point lead Sunday vs. the Eagles will ruin their season. Here's the thing: both teams entered with their season teetering just a bit and the Redskins let them off the hook.

Here's why: they're not that good. It's a simple answer, but it's the most realistic one. Washington is a mightily average team, with a pretty good defense and a pretty mediocre offense. That translates to a .500 team at best.

Good teams know how to finish games; the Redskins have not figured out how to do this on a consistent basis. Maybe it's as simple as they don't have the talent to do so. Of course, had they scored a touchdown late in the fourth quarter when they faced a first and goal at the 3-yard line, we would be writing a different story.

But they didn't. And then they let a team score on a 57-yard screen pass.

Granted, the NFL is full of teams that blow leads and lose games at home they shouldn't lose. There's not a lot of difference between most of these teams, either. The Redskins certainly are capable of having beaten the Eagles and the Giants. But do they look like a 7-2 team to anyone? Not even close.

One reason is because of injuries. The Redskins aren't good enough – nor are most teams – to withstand the injuries they've incurred. The offensive line issues weren't expected. But Santana Moss and Marcus Washington battled injuries all summer. Is it surprising that they're doing the same thing now? Fred Smoot continues to battle hamstring issues; think that will end any time soon?

And then Sean Taylor goes down during the game? If Taylor is playing safety on the 45-yard touchdown pass, quarterback Donovan McNabb probably doesn't even throw the ball. Taylor excels in those situations; adjusts to the ball like a good receiver. Pierson Prioleau did everything right on the play, but he is not capable of a similar adjustment. And McNabb knew it, which is why he threw the pass.

The Redskins have started to find their identity on offense and actually played a decent game, varying the tempo by using a no-huddle and running the ball on a defense that has played the run well.

The players can tell themselves they're not far off, but is that really true?

They've done well to be 5-4 given their woes. Heck, I predicted them to only win seven games and they seem to be on their way to winning more. I think. But they've continued a maddening trend with these home defeats. They're exceptionally average, which means an 8-8 finish would be logical at this point. After 5-11, that's progress. But after 5-3, that's not.

"We've got a lot of talent,'' Redskins left tackle Chris Samuels said. ‘'We just have to learn how to finish. That's been the story of the team the whole season. Until we learn how to finish we won't be as good as we're supposed to be."

But good players and good teams win these games. The Redskins don't have enough of the former – whether from injuries or poor personnel moves -- and that's preventing them from being the latter. It's a shame; the NFC is wide open enough that all a team has to do is get in and they could make some noise.

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