They may be down, but the Washington Redskins are certainly not out.
Despite the first half of the season not going as well as they'd hoped, the Redskins are keeping a positive attitude about their chances moving forward, and are confident for the second half of the season.
Taking a 3-6 record into the bye week, first-year head coach Jay Gruden believes that just a few plays here and there prevented them from having a substantially better record.
"When you go back and just look at what's going on, being 3-6, you look at the six losses and there's a player here and a play there that we're just so close to being 7-2 as opposed to 3-6," he said. "That's the way the NFL is right now."
In the weeks prior to their bye, the Redskins won two out of three games, defeating the Tennessee Titans and then the Dallas Cowboys on Monday Night Football. Gruden views both efforts as things they can build off of moving forward.
"You know we beat Tennessee, we come from behind with Colt, our third quarterback, coming in," Gruden said. "Then we go to Dallas and beat a team that was playing as good a football as anybody in the NFL at their place on Monday Night Football, so it was two great games."
Now well-rested and refreshed, the Redskins face a seven-game stretch that they've seen before.
In 2012, Washington was 3-6 at the time of their bye week, but managed to string together seven wins in a row to reach the playoffs.
Fullback Darrel Young, who was a part of that team, remembers that run well and doesn't see why it can't happen again.
"I always feel confident," he said. "Of course I'm going to be positive about it because I've done it and I have living experience of it. We just have to go out there and prove it to ourselves that we can. It started today. The journey started today."
Likewise, tight end Niles Paul sees similarities between that season and the current one.
"A couple years ago, we were kind of in the same situation when it came to game-wise, too," he said. "We could have easily been 6-3 at that point in the season. I think we could even be 6-3 this season."
For Washington to duplicate that success, Gruden thinks it comes to the fine details.
"I think the big thing is we've got to continue focusing on situational football," he said. "Whether it's third downs, whether it's two-minute drills, whether it's we got the ball at the plus-40 and all we need is 10 yards to get a field for overtime or a touchdown."
Paul also believes that it's about taking it one game at a time and that getting all three phases of the game – offense, defense and special teams – in sync will go a long way towards turning things around.
"We all know what we're capable of as a team when we got all phases rolling and we just got to string together some wins," Paul said. "We got to execute, finish games and play with the confidence that when we played against the Cowboys."
Over the final seven weeks, the Redskins will face two division leaders and three teams that rank in the top-10 in the NFL record-wise. In the final three weeks, they'll play division foes, the New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys, in that order.
While he admits that there are areas where the Redskins can improve, Gruden believes his team is one to watch over the second half of the season.
"There are some things the last three weeks that we have accomplished that are pretty darn good, both sides of the ball and special teams," Gruden said. "I think people can see that we have the makings of a good football team, we've just got to put it all together and stay consistent in our approach and how we play."
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