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Steve DeShazo: Redskins vs. Packers
By Steve DeShazo
Consider that the Redskins won yesterday without Thomas, Kelly, Dockery or Clinton Portis--huge investments made by previous administrations. Before camp even began, Shanahan cleared out aging, injury-prone veterans like Cornelius Griffin and Randy Thomas. Lichtensteiger and tailback Ryan Torain are players Shanahan first drafted while he was coaching in Denver, and he trusts them more than several incumbents.
To a man, the Redskins credit Shanahan and McNabb for bringing poise and confidence to a team that has had little of either recently. With decades of NFL experience between them, they rarely get rattled--and won't allow the sideline to lapse into negativity.
"When the chips are down, in the past we've kind of cashed them in," center Casey Rabach said. "Now we're finding ways to win games."
It helps to have a little of the karma that seemed to evade the Redskins in recent years. It wasn't a coincidence that McNabb's game-changing 48-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Armstrong came two plays after NFL sacks leader Clay Matthews limped off the field with a hamstring pull. Matthews had 1 sacks in little more than 30 minutes and could have had four.
And if Mason Crosby's hooking 52-yard field goal try in the final seconds of regulation hadn't bounced off the left upright, the Redskins might still feel snakebitten.
But good fortune can translate into confidence, and as the old adage goes, good teams make their own breaks. The Redskins haven't had a dangerous punt returner for years, but Brandon Banks' 30-yard return of a bouncing kick gave the Redskins field position--and confidence. Suffice it to say it's a play Antwaan Randle El wouldn't (and couldn't) have made.
Can the Redskins maintain this roll, with Indianapolis and Chicago up next? They still have plenty of flaws: a weak offensive line, shaky defensive backs, little tailback depth and no size at receiver. But for once, lack of poise isn't one of their major deficiencies.
"We weren't really mentally tough in the past," Fletcher said. "Under coach [Joe] Gibbs, down the stretch we were mentally tough [during playoff runs in 2005 and '07], because we played a lot of close games. But since coach Gibbs left [in 2008], we have not been a mentally tough football team."
They're starting to become one again.
Steve DeShazo: 540/374-5443