Lack of consistency problematic for ‘Skins

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Extra points in the National Football League (NFL) are supposed to be made. They are often considered a given, and require only the execution of a simple play. They may even prove to be the difference in a game, and if not executed properly, could have haunting consequences.

Such a botched play came back to hurt the Washington Redskins, who fell 16-17 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Dec. 12. With only seconds left in the game, Washington holder Hunter Smith was unable to handle a high snap on the point-after attempt, bringing an end to the Redskins’ hopes for a comeback victory.

This failure to execute not only cost Washington the game, but also demolished any hope the team had for a playoff birth. In a season characterized by constant instability and unpredictability, it was just one more play gone wrong for the Redskins.

What began as a promising season, with a 4-3 start and victories over both the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles, is now meaningless, and the team is fighting only for a respectable record. They are now 5-8, and have fallen to third place in the NFC East, four games out of first and just one ahead of the last-place Cowboys. They have both defeated first-place teams and fallen to those with losing records, which leaves fans questioning who is to blame for their disappointing streak.

It is easy to put the blame on the Redskins’ kicker, Graham Gano, who although not at fault for the failed extra point, missed two short field goals earlier in the game. Gano has now missed eight field goals on the season, which puts him 37th in the NFL in terms of field goal percentage. However, Gano’s total of 21 field goals is seventh best in the league, which in itself makes it hard to place the blame on Gano alone.

So, who is at fault for the Redskins’ recent losing streak?

This question is hard to answer, as the team as a whole has slumped in recent weeks. Washington is currently ranked 20th or lower in terms of total offense and total defense, due in part to a number of injuries on both sides. Still, there must be some reason why the team has had so much trouble producing.

With a typically strong defense, the fact that the team is 22nd in points allowed per game is much of a letdown. More disappointingly, however, has been the performance of the offense, whose lack of a running game has left it reliant on quarterback Donovan McNabb. In his first season as a Redskin, McNabb has faced much criticism, but except for a poor touchdown-to-interception ration, has performed well for the team. So, if not McNabb, who deserves the blame for the Redskins’ disappointing performance thus far?

Truth is, the blame cannot be forced upon the shoulders of any single player. The team as a whole is in a state of re-building, and has been for the past several years. Within 11 games they had improved on their 4-12 record from last year, which in itself shows that they have already made positive developments.

At this point, the team’s main goal is improvement, and despite the injuries they have faced, they have shown progress throughout the year. Now all the Redskins must do to establish themselves as a competitive program is achieve a level of stability and consistency that will enable them to contend with any team in the NFL.