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For Redskins, November Schedule Provides No Relief

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Easy didn't do it.

The Redskins played five of their first seven games against the NFL's worst teams and won only two of those. In their meetings with a pair of NFC East rivals, they were beaten narrowly first and soundly in the second.

So the idea that a rigorous schedule – and Washington's is the toughest in the league in November – provides the perfect setup for a turnaround hardly seems to apply.

Easy didn't do it. Not against the St. Louis Rams, a 1-7 team that has only beaten the Detroit Lions. Easy didn't do it against the Lions, who've beaten only the Redskins. Or against the Kansas City Chiefs, also a one-win team.

Easy is too hard for this team.

So maybe hard will be easier? Go figure.

The travels and travails put the Redskins on the road in three of the next four weeks, beginning Sunday in Atlanta against the Falcons (4-3). Then home with the Denver Broncos (6-1). Then at the Dallas Cowboys (5-2). And finally a rematch with the Philadelphia Eagles (5-2).

The Redskins seem to believe they play to the level of their competition. Put them on the field with the Rams and they do enough to win 9-7. Put them on the field with a superior club and they will rise up.

That didn't exactly happen in the opening-day loss to the New York Giants and they trailed the Eagles 27-10 at halftime of their last game but this feeling that a greater challenge yields a more intense response has long been part of the team's psyche.

Hey, people believe man and dinosaur once frolicked together (for real, not just in the Flintstones and Jurassic Park). So how far-fetched is this?

Forget beliefs and look at facts. The Redskins are 2-5, losers of their last three games. They've not won since Oct. 4 when they defeated the still-winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

They're going to play a sore and angry Falcons squad that has lost consecutive games for the first time in the two-year tenure of coach Mike Smith and quarterback Matt Ryan. They made the playoffs last year with an 11-5 record. They're 4-3 and trailing unbeaten New Orleans in the NFC South by three games, and that includes a loss to the Saints in the Superdome on Monday night.

A test for the Redskins? To be sure. The first of many. Maybe, if their belief is correct, exactly what they need now.

"I think that's a good thing, that we have a tough schedule," running back Clinton Portis says. "We always come out and play well in big games. We always perform and get up when we're not supposed to and we're picked to lose. Big games, with the competition we have in the month of November, we don't have to worry about guys not showing up because if you don't show up in this case you will be embarrassed against these teams."

Getting better because the other team is? Tough sell.

"That's a little bit of grabbing for something that's not real," head coach Jim Zorn says.

The Redskins go into Atlanta as 10-point underdogs. And without a road win. The Falcons are 3-0 at home. Only four teams have scored fewer points than Washington's 78 and you don't want to know who they are (OK, you do, and they are the Cleveland Browns, Oakland Raiders, Rams and Bucs). Talk about a bad neighborhood.

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Eight teams have allowed more points than they've scored. Washington is one of them.

The Redskins must produce offensively, sustain drives and put the opponent at a disadvantage. They know it. Atlanta has scored 45 points in the first quarter of its seven games. Washington has scored 10, and a paltry 33 in the first half.

"We're going to try to push the button a little more, try to find a tempo early in the game," quarterback Jason Campbell says. "I think our main thing is going to be to take the football and try to manage the game very well. We're going to be in a hostile environment and we're playing against a really good football team that's hungry for a win.

"At the same time we're hungry for a win because we're trying to change things in the second half of our season from what they were in the first half."

The only way is to play better. Against better teams.


Larry Weisman covered professional football for USA TODAY for 25 years and now joins the Redskins Broadcast Network and Redskins.com to bring his unique viewpoint and experience to Redskins fans. Go to Redskins.com for the Redskins Blitz column and NFL Blitz on Friday. Larry also appears on The Jim Zorn Show on WRC-TV on Saturday night, on Redskins Nation, airing twice nightly on Comcast SportsNet, and on ESPN 980 AM radio, all in the Washington, D.C. area. Read his blog at redskinsrule.com and follow him on Twitter.com/LarryWeisman.

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