For as long as the Redskins have been struggling there has been talk that they need to learn how to win. You could almost write the quotes before going to the coach’s postgame presser or going into the locker room.
“We just needed someone to make a play.”
“We just need to learn how to put teams away.”
“We just can’t turn the ball over in that situation.”
The 2012 Redskins all of a sudden figured out how to win the games that had been getting away from them. They managed to rally for a couple of wins in ways they hadn’t been able to in a long time, or ever.
When Billy Cundiff kicked a 41-yard field goal to turn a two-point deficit into an one-point lead with three seconds left in Tampa in Week 4, it marked the first time since 1999 that they had scored in the last minute to go from trailing to leading.
And before Kirk Cousins threw a touchdown pass and ran in the two-point conversion with 36 seconds left against the Ravens in Week 14 they had never tied a game in the fourth quarter with a TD and two-pointer.
Another winning way the Redskins learned last year was the ability to put teams away. Get ready to have your mind blown. Or to beat your head against the table. Or both.
Last year, the Redskins scored in the fourth quarter to turn a one-score lead into a two-score lead four times—against the Saints, Vikings, and in both Cowboys games. That sounds fairly routine in the NFL, right?
Not for the Redskins.
From 2007 through 2011, the Redskins got a touchdown or field goal in the fourth quarter to turn a one-score game into a two-score games a total of four times.
That’s right. They put a team away with a fourth-quarter score as many times in 2012 as they had in the previous five seasons combined.
Looking at the win probability calculator on Advanced NFL Stats we can see how much these scores increased the Redskins’ chances of winning the game. After the Saints scored a touchdown with 6:25 left to play and then got the ball back at their own 27 the Redskins had an 89 percent chance of winning the game. After DeJon Gomes picked off a Drew Brees pass and Alfred Morris punched it in for a touchdown the Redskins chances of winning went up to 99 percent.
Robert Griffin III’s 76-yard touchdown run against the Vikings had a more dramatic effect on their win probability. Before the run the Redskins had an 80 percent chance of winning. After RG3 jumped into the stands after scoring they had a 98 percent chance of coming out on top
Of course, a lot of that isn’t merely in learning how to win. It’s a matter of assembling a functioning offense. With the additions of quarterback Robert Griffin III and running back Alfred Morris, the Redskins finished fifth in the NFL in scoring, their first appearance in the top 10 since 1999 (not coincidentally, the last time they won a division title).
Although that was a positive development, they could have done better. They were tied or held the lead in four of their six losses and in most of them a drive that could have made a big difference stalled.
So while there is room for improvement it’s hard to complain about making substantial progress in learning how to put teams away. Many aspects of progress are accomplished in baby steps; this one represented a great leap forward.