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'Let's Take Somebody Home With Us': Divisional Games Provide Redskins With Plenty To Play For

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On Oct. 13, 2018, Adrian Peterson rushed for 149 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries. Alex Smith threw for 178 yards and a score. Washington's defense sacked Eli Manning seven times and intercepted him twice.

These statistics are significant because they came in 20-13 win over the New York Giants, and the win is significant because it's the last time the the Redskins defeated an NFC East opponent.

On Sunday, more than 14 months after that victory, the Redskins will have an opportunity to end that drought when they play the Philadelphia Eagles at FedExField. They'll host the Giants the following week, and then they travel to play the Dallas Cowboys in the season finale.

With their 20-15 defeat in Green Bay last weekend, the Redskins were officially eliminated from playoff contention. But with three games to play, coaches and players maintain there's still plenty to play for.

"I want to see us compete in the divisional games," interim head coach Bill Callahan said Wednesday. "We're 0-7 in our last divisional games, and that hits hard. We're 0-5 against Philly in the last five games. So I'd like to see a competitive effort against the division. This is a chance to kind of redeem ourselves in a lot of ways and really set the tone for next season."

The optimism surrounding the current Redskins stems from a group of young contributors, many of whom did not play a factor in the previous seven divisional defeats. For example, first-round rookie Dwayne Haskins Jr. was still at Ohio State during Washington's first four losses, all of which came without then-starting quarterback Alex Smith.

It began with a loss to the Cowboys, and then the Redskins lost backup quarterback Colt McCoy for the season in Philadelphia. With their quarterback situation in flux, they suffered two more NFC East defeats to the Giants and Eagles to close out the 2018 campaign.

The divisional losses continued to pile up during the first month of this season with veteran Case Keenum under center. Strong starts against the Eagles and Cowboys gave way to ferocious comebacks that the Redskins could not come back from. In Week 4 against the Giants, their offense failed to show up at all. Haskins made his NFL debut that day, replacing the struggling Keenum in the second quarter, but he too was ineffective in the 24-3 result.

Take a look at practice photos from Thursday's practice for the upcoming game.

A lot has changed since then, however. When the Redskins and Eagles meet up Sunday, Haskins will be making his sixth-career start. There's also a new head coach (Callahan) and a new play-caller (offensive coordinator Kevin O'Connell). Under their guidance, the Redskins have become a run-dominant team behind Adrian Peterson while relying on a trio of rookie wide receivers: Terry McLaurin, Kelvin Harmon and Steven Sims Jr.

"I feel way more comfortable, but I know it's a long, long road ahead for me to where I feel like I can be in the future," Haskins said after the Packers game. "I'm excited for the last three games against the NFC East and to play at home for the next two weeks. Hoping we can get a couple more wins and finish off strong."

Defensively, the team has also made strides. Its allowing fewer than 20 points per game over their last three contests and has totaled 17 sacks, which is among the most in the league during that stretch. That's helped the Redskins secure wins in two of the past three weeks, with their only defeat coming by five points on the road against the NFC North-leading Green Bay Packers.

The Redskins' biggest issue during this stretch has been starting slow, as both the Panthers and Packers went up 14-0 in the first quarter. Fixing this issue would go a long way towards potentially avenging those early-season losses within the NFC East.

"Just to know that the season is literally over as far as any type of post-season hopes is not a good feeling," Peterson said after losing in Green Bay. "But I was telling the guys that the most important thing for us is to continue to build off of the last couple of weeks. We were right there. Offensively we really didn't capitalize on some of the opportunities they gave us and on defense we keep fighting."

Perhaps the biggest motivator for Washington is the playoff implications of these contests. The Cowboys and Eagles are tied atop the division at 6-7, and the Redskins get to play both teams over the final three weeks.

So, while the burgundy and gold will be watching the postseason this year, at least they'll have a say as to who will be joining them.

"Let's take somebody home with us," Ereck Flowers said.

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