You can't count the Washington Redskins out, but that's only because the NFC East is the flimsiest division in the NFL. In any other division, their season would have ended the moment Santana Moss was unable to get two feet down inbounds on a fourth-down fade in the final seconds of their 34-27 loss to the Minnesota Vikings Thursday night.
The Redskins started 3-6 last year and went on to win the division, and they can absolutely do the same thing after falling to 3-6 this week.
But the 'Skins were beaten up in the wild-card playoffs last year because they were the cream of a rotten crop. Exposed to the rest of the league in January, they failed.
That's why I can't take the Redskins seriously in the big picture.
Even if they somehow battle back and win the division, they're destined to be ousted on the first weekend of January. This team just doesn't have what it takes to make a Super Bowl run, at least not right now.
|Redskins after wins this season|
|Total||No winning streaks||0-3||110-64|
But the Redskins haven't just lacked consistency from game to game. They've also been unpredictable from half to half and quarter to quarter. They rose up in the second half to beat San Diego last week, but they had a Heimlich-worthy choke in the second half at the Metrodome on Thursday.
|Redskins: Drive by drive vs. Vikings|
|First quarter||11||50||Field goal|
|Third quarter||12||59||Field goal|
Those are the marks of a mediocre football team, which has us wondering if last year's season-closing seven-game winning streak was fool's gold.
OK, quarterback Robert Griffin III hasn't quite been himself coming off reconstructive knee surgery. But that doesn't wholly explain what's happening with this team.
Despite a consistently strong running game, the play-calling has at times been baffling.
Nobody knows why offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan ditched the run with a fourth-quarter lead in Denver two weeks ago, and just as many of us are asking why they threw it on three straight plays while down seven with the clock barely a factor in the final minute inside the Minnesota 5-yard line Thursday. The decision to throw a low-percentage fade to Moss on fourth down was just the icing on the cake.
The 'Skins were in disarray in the second half, which made little sense against an opponent that had lost seven of its first eight games and was missing five starters due to injury.
Credit Vikings defensive coordinator Alan Williams for making some sound adjustments, but it's ridiculous that Griffin wasn't sacked at all in the first half before being taken down four times after halftime. In fact, he was sacked on three of his first four dropbacks to start the fourth quarter.
Thus, a healthy Washington team had just three second-half points against a badly banged-up Vikes defense that entered Thursday's game ranked 29th overall. Minnesota had 17 sacks on its first 617 defensive snaps of 2013 (2.8 percent) and then had four on the next 15 (26.7 percent).
As a result, RGIII became flustered. His first throw of the fourth quarter missed a wide-open Jordan Reed. He didn't step into it, and he wasn't the same from that point forward. After completing 16 of his 21 first-half passes, he was just 8-of-16 after intermission.
It doesn't help that Morris, who averaged 5.3 yards per carry, was ignored on the final 11 plays from scrimmage.
On the other side of the ball, things were supposed to be different with top pass-rusher Brian Orakpo back this year, but this defense entered Thursday's game ranked 30th in yards allowed and 31st in points allowed.
That points-per-game total will rise after they surrendered 34 to a Vikings team that used Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel at quarterback and was missing 40 percent of its starting offensive line. That 34-point total tied a season high for Minnesota.
The Redskins are the furthest thing from trustworthy, which is very concerning because they're running out of excuses. It's not all on RGIII's fragile right knee, and this has nothing to do with injuries. Now they're healthy and Griffin has come around, but they still can't string anything together.
Even if that changes to a degree and they are able to do enough to win the division for the second straight year, this team doesn't have the right ingredients to make a run in January.