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Road Games, Division Games a Struggle For Redskins

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Fred Smoot remembered.

He needed a prompt or two but then it dawned on him.

"Seattle," he said. "Shawn Springs had that pick at the end."

You are correct, sir.

The question: Where did the Redskins last win a road game? More painful is the when. It was more than a year ago. Nov. 23, 2008. Eight road games ago.

"I don't like to dwell on that statistic. Thank you for writing about it," head coach Jim Zorn said.

You're welcome. If there's anything else subversive you need done, please call.

The Redskins (3-7) play the Philadelphia Eagles (6-4) at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday. Winless on the road, they are also winless in the NFC East. This is some daily double.

Winless in five on the road. Winless in three in the division. Insert mighty oath here and swear it.

"Road games are tough to win," said defensive end Phillip Daniels. "You're in hostile territory and you've traveled and all of that plays a factor. We had opportunities to win some on the road and let them slip."

Right through their fingers in some cases.

They lost the opener to the New York Giants on a fumble that was returned for a touchdown. A turnover went for a touchdown in the loss to the Atlanta Falcons.

They let a 15-point lead escape in Carolina. Gave up a big touchdown run just after the offense began to rally in Atlanta. Held Dallas without a touchdown for 57 minutes and 19 seconds but never scored one and lost 7-6 last Sunday.

"I wish I could put my hand on it," Smoot said. "Maybe we're not focusing. Playing a road game takes a lot of focus. There has to be an 'us against the world' mentality. You can't go on the road and turn the ball over and expect to win."

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Three teams in the NFL have hit the "no road win, no division win" exacta. The Redskins are joined in this nasty double of nothing by the Detroit Lions (0-5, 0-3 in division) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-4, 0-2 in division).

The Redskins last won in division play on Dec. 21, 2008, nipping the Eagles 10-3 at FedExField.

The Cleveland Browns also have no division wins (0-4). Neither do the St. Louis Rams (0-3). The Seattle Seahawks are winless on the road (0-5).

These are not exactly contending teams. In some cases they are barely teams at all.

The simple formula for getting to the playoffs boils down to winning six of eight home games and splitting away. That's 10-6, almost always good enough to qualify. Same theory says a team needs to get at least a split of the six division games and then win seven of the 10 against outside competition.

The alchemist never taught that lesson here. The Redskins finished 8-8 last year by combining 4-4 records home and away. That's their history.

Looking at the years since 2001, spanning coaches Marty Schottenheimer, Steve Spurrier, Joe Gibbs and Jim Zorn, the Redskins have never finished above .500 on the road and hit that figure only three times (2001, 2005, 2008). Every other year showed a 2-6 away mark.

The Redskins played well on the road early last season but then lost to the Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals and San Francisco 49ers to close it out. Of that trio, only the Ravens qualified for the playoffs.

"You've got to win in the division, you've got to win on the road to make it deep into the playoffs," Daniels said. "We're just fighting to get a good record and finish on a strong note."

Divisional games have not been a strong suit for the Redskins most of this decade, either. Since 2002, when the NFL went to a four-division format, the Redskins are 15-30 in the NFC East.

Daniels noted the Redskins had never had a home playoff game in his time with the club and that began in 2004.

Heck, he missed the happy occasion by five years. The only Redskins home playoff game at FedExField followed the 1999 season, when the team won its last NFC East title. They were 6-2 at home, 4-4 on the road, 5-3 in the division (before realignment turned divisions from five teams into quartets), 5-3 against the rest of the league.

That's the formula. Those are the facts. That's how it works.

Pack your bags. Stuff a little swagger and grit in there with the shaving kit and t-shirt and get ready for Philly. In this league, teams can be road warriors, road worriers or road kill.


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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