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redskins-chargers playlist

(photo by Brian Murphy)

1. “Hail to the King” by Avenged Sevenfold

It wouldn’t have surprised me if fans of the Washington Redskins were less than enthusiastic about the team’s decision to hold their annual alumni homecoming game Week 9. After all, the Redskins came into the game against the San Diego Chargers winless in these nostalgic affairs — having lost 21-13 to Carolina last season and 19-11 to San Francisco back in ’11.

And yet, I can’t help but think that one of the primary reasons Washington was able to emerge victorious — defeating the Chargers 30-24 in overtime — had a little something to do with one of the old timers who was in the house Sunday.

Former Redskins quarterback Doug Williams, who was the most valuable player of Super Bowl XXII, and more than 30 of his teammates from that championship squad were honored during halftime. But before then, Williams had a chance to chat with local reporters about the burgundy and gold.

During a pre-game interview, Williams was asked what the Redskins need to do in order to salvage this season before it’s too late.

“You know, I think the guys that are here every day watching the Washington Redskins –- the coaches, the personnel guys –- they can probably answer that better than I can,” said Williams. “I can’t sit here watching them twice a year on TV and tell them what they need to do.”

And then, Williams was asked about quarterback Robert Griffin III. For a guy who just seconds earlier said he was too far removed from the situation to provide any real advice or feedback, he sure did manage to hit the nail on the head with this response.

“Last year, he came in and elevated his football team,” he said. “I think right now the football team needs to elevate Robert.”

As simple as it sounds, that’s what this team has lacked in 2013. With Griffin not quite playing up to his all-pro standard as he recovers from major knee surgery, it’s become painfully clear that he can’t do it all by himself these days.

If the the Redskins are going to be able to turn things around and be a more competitive football franchise in the second half of the season, it’ll be because players other than the franchise quarterback were able to help shoulder the load.

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redskins-bears playlist

(ExtremeSkins photo)

1. “Battle Born” by Five Finger Death Punch

The list of areas the Washington Redskins need to improve upon is still lengthier than the list of what’s going right for the franchise, but that’s beside the point for the moment.

That’s because the Redskins earned their second win of the season — in comeback fashion, no less — scoring a touchdown in the final minute of play to complete a thrilling 45-41 win over the Chicago Bears Sunday.

The 45-point performance was Washington’s most productive outing during the Mike Shanahan era and the team’s most points since scoring 52 points against San Francisco back on Oct. 23, 2005, a span of 128 regular season games.

Equally impressive stat to consider: the last time the Redskins posted at least 499 yards of offense in a game that didn’t go to overtime, was back on Nov. 10, 1991 against Atlanta.

“We had a feeling about this game,” said quarterback Robert Griffin III. “I know I did. I talked to the guys before the game about having a breakthrough. We have been through a lot of adversity –- offseason, and the beginning of the season not going the way we wanted it to. We needed that breakthrough. I told them they would be the ones to make the plays to make it happen. I think the guys believed it; they saw it and we went out there to make it happen.”

While it’s kind of Griffin to go out of his way to recognize his teammates, the main reason Washington was able to compete with one of the better teams in the NFC was because their franchise quarterback finally played like a franchise quarterback.

Against Chicago, Griffin completed 18 of 29 passes for 298 yards with two touchdowns and one interception and finished the day with a quarterback rating of 105.2. Griffin also picked up 84 yards on 11 carries (both numbers represented season highs).

“Well, I think everybody saw what we did today in order to run a little bit more and keep the defense fairly honest,” Shanahan said. “He made some good plays. He was able to run the ball. He competed in the running game, and made some good throws on the run. He led a great final drive to put us in the end zone.”

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redskins-raiders playlist

(photo by Brian Murphy)

1. “All Nightmare Long” by Metallica

Before the first quarter had even finished it looked like the Washington Redskins were once again destined to disappoint.

A blocked punt for a touchdown and an 18-yard touchdown reception by a rookie tight end allegedly named Mychal Rivera had ‘Skins fans in a dark, dark place as they watched their favorite football franchise once again falter in the opening frame.

The offense once again struggle to move the ball in the early stages and the defense allowed a 10-play, 81-yard drive by Raiders backup quarterback Matt Flynn and a bunch of spare parts, and it wouldn’t have been unreasonable to wonder why the team would even fly across the country if they were just going to lay an egg.

After all, one week earlier the Detroit Lions used a no-name running back to defeat the Redskins. The week before that, the Green Bay Packers used an even less-heralded running back to steamroll Washington.

Would it really be out of the realm of possibility to see a mediocre Raiders team — without the services of some key players on their limited offense — defeat the Redskins during a time when very little has gone right for head coach Mike Shanahan and friends?

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redskins-lions playlist

(ExtremeSkins photo)

1. “In The End” by Black Veil Brides

By now, it’s safe to say that fans of the Washington Redskins knew coming into the game, Washington was 21-0 in home games against the Detroit Lions since 1937. But how bad have things gone south for the burgundy and gold in just three weeks? The Philadelphia Eagles, Green Bay Packers and Lions are 3-0 against the Redskins, and 1-5 versus the rest of the NFL.

Coming off of last year’s postseason run (and, to a much lesser extent, an undefeated preseason), folks around town automatically assumed that the Redskins were set for the next decade or so. Unfortunately, that’s not really how things work in the NFL.

For as fondly as people choose to remember the ’12 season, it still took a seven-game winning streak just to sneak into the postseason on the final day of the regular season. And here we are, in year four of the Mike Shanahan era and what does the franchise have to show for it? A boring and predictable offense, a debacle for a defense and a special teams unit that excels at nothing. Other than that, this season has been a smashing success.

Through 50 games* in Washington, Shanahan is just 21-29. Yes, the roster is younger and now features something that finally resembles depth, and yes, the league did take away $18 million in salary cap space this past offseason, but how did this franchise become so unwatchable so quickly?

*As Dan Steinberg pointed out, this was actually Shanahan’s 51st regular season game in Washington, so let’s make that 21-30. Fun times.

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redskins-packers playlist

(photo by Brian Murphy)

1. “Curse Me Good” by The Heavy

For two straight games now, the Washington Redskins have looked completely overwhelmed in the first half against a highly-motivated opponent.

In the season opener, Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly wanted to make a strong first impression as he made his NFL debut. His Eagles came out the gate with a renewed sense of urgency and dictated the pace and tone of the game to the Redskins almost immediately.

One week later, it was a different opponent, but it was still more of the same. Coming off a humbling loss to the San Francisco 49ers, the Green Bay Packers felt obligated to remind the rest of the league that they are still a formidable adversary capable of competing with the league’s elite. So they too, were eager to set the tone early and win in blowout fashion.

And in both cases, the Redskins could do nothing but sit there quietly while the opposition had their way with the burgundy and gold.

Philadelphia racked up 322 yards of offense and 26 points during the first half of the season opener. Green Bay marched up and down the field with similar ease — as Aaron Rodgers and friends amassed 353 yards and 24 points during the first half of play.

If you combine their two pitiful first-half performances, the Redskins have allowed 675 yards and 50 points. They’ve allowed opponents to score on eight of 14 first-half drives, and that number would be even higher if defensive coordinator Jim Haslett wasn’t bailed out by a lucky bounce on a Packers fumble that resulted in a touchback just before halftime.

In short, this defense has been remarkably bad so far this season, putting even more pressure on the offense to do what they did for most of last year — play well enough that no one really notices the defense stinks.

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redskins-eagles playlist

(photo by Brian Murphy)

1. “Halfway There” by Soundgarden

During the Mike Shanahan era, the Washington Redskins defense has had little trouble making a splash right out of the gate. In fact, Jim Haslett’s men have now scored a touchdown in all four home openers — starting with DeAngelo Hall’s 33-yard fumble recovery against Dallas in 2010, followed by Ryan Kerrigan’s nine-yard interception return for a touchdown against the New York Giants in ’11 and let’s not forget Rob Jackson’s interception for a touchdown against Cincinnati last season.

Well, Jackson is suspended for the first four games of the season, so that left Hall and Kerrigan to make some more magic and they didn’t disappoint — with Kerrigan deflecting a backwards pass attempt by Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, and then Hall scooping up the football and returning it 75 yards at a leisurely pace for the easiest score of his NFL career.

Just like that the Redskins were off to a wonderful start and all was good in the burgundy and gold universe.

2. “Light Up The Sky” by Thousand Foot Krutch

Of course, it’s probably not a great idea to peak in the first four minutes of a 60-minute affair.

Once the Redskins jumped out to a quick lead, things quickly devolved into what can only be called a worst-case scenario. Running back Alfred Morris, who only fumbled the ball three times his entire rookie campaign, coughed up the football on the team’s very first offense play of the season. One play later the Eagles scored an easy touchdown and suddenly led the game 10-7.

Morris’ second rushing attempt lost three yards, which, sadly, is a “highlight” when talking about just how bad he looked to start the game. And then the second-year pro bobbled the ball on a pitch out, which resulted in a safety. Obviously this is a game Morris will be in a hurry to forget.

LeSean McCoy, on the other hand, had a career day as he abused the Redskins defense seemingly at will. When the ‘Skins were passive, he gashed them up the middle. When they got overly aggressive, he had an answer for that as well.

Take, for example, outside linebacker Brian Orakpo, who was cleared amp up to get back out on the field after missing most of last year due to injury. As talented as Orakpo is, he repeatedly over-pursued throughout the game, which allowed McCoy to bounce back outside to the gap Orakpo just vacated. If you’re rooting for the home team, that’s a bad thing. If you’re an Eagles running back, it’s a dream come true (which explains his 181 rushing yards for the night).

Basically, whatever the defense tried to do, McCoy had a counterpunch ready and if this was a prize fight, it wouldn’t have lasted more than a round or two before McCoy won by a TKO.

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redskins-bills playlist

(photo by Brian Murphy)

1. “Have A Cigar” by Pink Floyd

Historically speaking, the third preseason game is the most important preseason game. Typically, teams use it as a dress rehearsal for the regular season — allowing the starters to play for most, if not all, of the first half.

Well, as you know by now, the Washington Redskins aren’t like most teams.

With starting quarterback Robert Griffin III coming off of major knee surgery and backup quarterback Kirk Cousins sidelined after suffering an injury against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the ‘Skins were more than happy to be overly cautious heading into their third preseason game. That is why head coach Mike Shanahan was more than happy to roll out Rex Grossman and Pat White at quarterback, while also limiting his starters to roughly 15 snaps worth of action.

While it’s safe to say Shanahan and company would prefer to put the ball in the hands of Griffin or Cousins, the two-time Super Bowl winning coach was pleased with the performance of his third and fourth-string quarterbacks in Washington’s 30-7 rout over the Buffalo Bills. The not-so dynamic duo combined for 267 passing yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions, which is probably the best-case scenario for these two flawed passers.

“You never know how a game’s going to go,” he said. “But when you’re the second-team, third-team, or fourth-team quarterbacks, that’s what happens during the game you have to come off of the bench cold. You have to produce even though you’re not warmed up and we wanted to put both guys in that similar situation today. We wanted both to get a chance to play with the same players. We wanted to give Pat a chance to play with the starters and Rex started the game, and I was pleased with both guys and how they played.”

2. “Easy Breeze” by Clutch

While the performance by Grossman and White would have been more than enough cause for celebration, Washington’s ground game was even more impressive — racking up 208 yards on 43 carries (4.8 yards per carry) and a touchdown.

Honestly, it didn’t matter which running back had the ball in his hands or which Bills defender was in front of him — all four running backs who carried the ball had little trouble moving the chains. Alfred Morris started the game, and carried the ball four times for 16 yards before Shanahan wisely removed him from the game to ensure he remained healthy for games that actually matter.

Rookie Chris Thompson ran for a career-best 44 yards, although he did fumble for the second time this preseason. He also contributed with a 31-yard punt return, to try and atone for his lack of ball security. Keiland Williams rushed eight times for 52 yards and a touchdown, which will likely help him land on a roster — either in Washington or elsewhere in this running back starved league.

And the most impressive showing of the day came courtesy of Roy Helu Jr., who led the way with 13 carries for 70 yards on the ground and one catch for 21 yards in the passing attack. While the question with Helu is always going to be “how many games in a row can he remain healthy for?” He once again showed his coaches that, as long as he’s able to play, he’s going to be a dependable second option behind Morris.

“I was impressed with our offensive line and our backs,” Shanahan said. “It’s a group effort anytime you run the football and our wide receivers blocked exceptionally well. So it’s a group effort anytime you run the ball and I thought we had a couple of play-action passes off of it as well that set up a couple passes, but it was a good day overall.”

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