The Washington Redskins were dead in the water after their 21-13 Week Nine loss to the Carolina Panthers. The 2012 NFL season looked like another lost season after Redskins’ head coach Mike Shanahan talked about player evaluations. That’s not a good look midway through the season.
My, how times have changed. Washington has won five consecutive games, after a 38-21 Week 15 road victory over the Cleveland Browns. This was the Redskins’ most impressive game of the season because they were without their sensational, multidimensional rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III. For the Redskins to put up 38 points against a scrappy Browns’ team that had their three game winning streak snapped is remarkable.
During the winning streak, Washington has had different players step up to become the hero to support Griffin III’s stellar play. While the offense has been consistently effective, it’s been the defense that has played better. Redskins’ outside linebacker Rob Jackson has forced opponents’ turnovers in the Redskins’ last two games. Jackson forced and recovered a fumble against the Baltimore Ravens, and he recorded an interception against the Browns. Both were momentum changing turnovers that turned into points for Washington on each of the ensuing drives.
Inside linebacker and defensive team captain London Fletcher has also been clutch at times. He has recorded interceptions against the Ravens and Browns in consecutive weeks. Both interceptions ended potential scoring drives in Washington territory. Fletcher’s interception of Cleveland quarterback Brandon Weeden had to be sweet, considering that he is a Cleveland native playing in front of family and friends. Of course, the Redskins’ victory capped off a great day on the field for Fletcher.
Another hero for the Redskins is wide receiver Leonard Hankerson (above). Before the game against the Browns, Hankerson had only one touchdown reception in 2012. That changed on Sunday, when quarterback Kirk Cousins, filling in for an injured Griffin III, connected with Hankerson for two touchdown passes. It was Hankerson’s only two catches on the day, but they were critical in the Redskins’ latest victory. The first touchdown swung the game’s momentum in Washington’s favor, and the second sustained the momentum the Redskins already had by extending their lead over Cleveland.
At 8-6, Washington is part of a three way tie for first place in the NFC East with the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants. However, the Redskins are in the driver’s seat for the division crown because they currently hold tiebreakers over the Cowboys and Giants. If they win their final two games, against the Philadelphia Eagles and the Cowboys, Washington will win its first division title since 1999.
Whether or not that happens remains to be seen. In any event, the 2012 Washington Redskins are not like past Redskins’ teams of underachievers. This year’s team has the potential to do some great things. Even if Washington finishes at 8-8, this team has progressed greatly overall. Redskins’ fans hope 2012 will be the year their favorite team turns the corner to experience great things.