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Redskins savor rare opportunity

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Redskins savor rare opportunity

The last time the Redskins played a home game in December that had postseason implications was 2007.

The next time arrives Monday, when the Giants (7-4) visit FedEx Field for a pivotal NFC East matchup on national television. With a victory, the Redskins (5-6) would vault themselves into the thick of the division and wild card races. 

For veterans like Lorenzo Alexander, the five years in between have felt like an eternity. 

“It’s great,” he said Wednesday. “This is the first meaningful game I’ve played in December in a while, still having the playoffs on the table. It’s a great feeling that we’re still playing for something outside of personal pride. It’s for postseason play.”

The mood around Redskins Park, as a result, has been more upbeat in comparison to recent years, when the post-Thanksgiving focus had already shifted to the following season.

Not this week, however. Not after back-to-back wins over the Eagles and Cowboys breathed life back into a season that had been left for dead at the bye. 

“It’s more important to everybody,” defensive end Stephen Bowen said. “They’re putting in the work. Whether it’s in weight room, the classroom, the field, they’re putting in extra work.”

"The last two weeks have given us confidence because of the way that we’re playing," Bowen continued. "We know we still have an opportunity to make a run. It’s good for team morale. It shows that all that hard work you put in the offseason wasn’t for naught." 

Tackle Trent Williams added: “The last couple of years, we haven’t had anything of this nature. It feels great. It’s definitely a huge game for us, for this organization. A win Monday night could do a lot for us in the near future and also in the distant future.”

Coach Mike Shanahan noted last week that there's been an increased sense of urgency for his players. Fullback Darrel Young, however, said the key to the turnaround has in fact been something more tangible: players are making clutch plays at critical junctures.

“Execution under pressure,” Young said. “Look at Santana [Moss] making big plays on third-and-one. We didn’t have that. We came into the season with the worst percentage on third down. We’re not we want to be, but guys are making plays.”

Alexander agreed.

“If you look at all of our losses, we have had mental lapses, especially the last Giants’ game when we gave up that big play at the end,” he said. “Compare that to the Dallas game where you had Dez Bryant in the end zone and Madieu Williams comes over, hits him and dislodges the ball. A couple of weeks ago, [Bryant] would have caught that ball.”

The challenge now, Alexander said, is maintaining the momentum.

“It’s all about confidence and winning games,” he said. “The great teams, especially the Super Bowl teams over the last three or four years, have been able to play good ball in the second half of the season. They’ve gone into December playing at a high level, like the Giants and Green Bay Packers. They started a little slow but were able to finish strong. If we’re able to mimic some of that, we have a great chance achieving a lot of our goals here.”

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Redskins 2017 NFL Schedule Week 4 vs. Chiefs: Date, Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch and Betting Odds

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USA Today Sports

Redskins 2017 NFL Schedule Week 4 vs. Chiefs: Date, Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch and Betting Odds

Everything looked different for the Washington Redskins during their Week 3 win over the Oakland Raiders. They looked like a different team. 

Quarterback Kirk Cousins more than doubled his yardage from Week 2 — completing 25-of-30 passes for 365 yards and three touchdowns — running back Chris Thompson was the Redskins' best receiver with six catches for 150 yards and one touchdown and the defense shined against Derek Carr and the Raiders.

The Redskins are now on a two-game winning streak, but can they  continue it through to Week 4 against quarterback Alex Smith and the Kansas City Chiefs on the road at Arrowhead Stadium? 

Here's everything you need to know ahead of the Week 4 Redskins vs. Chiefs game Monday night. 

RELATED: 5 TAKEAWAYS FROM REDSKINS VS. RAIDERS

Redskins vs. Chiefs, Week 4 of the 2017 NFL season

Who: Washington Redskins at Kansas City Chiefs

Where: Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City Missouri

What: Week 4 of the 2017 NFL season

When: Monday, October 2, 8:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN

Live Stream: NFL Game Pass

Radio: Redskins Radio Network

Betting Odds: According to VegasInsider.com, the Washington Redskins are a 6.5-point favorite against the Kansas City Chiefs.

PHOTO GALLERY: Best photos from NFL Week 3, Redskins 27 Raiders 10

Washington Redskins 2017 Regular Season Schedule:

Week 1 (Sun. 9/10): 30-17 loss vs. Philadelphia Eagles

Week 2 (Sun. 9/17): 27-20 win at Los Angeles Rams

Week 3 (Sun. 9/24): 27-10 win vs. Oakland Raiders

Week 4 (Mon. 10/2): at Kansas City Chiefs, 8:30 p.m. 

Week 5 (Sun. 10/8): BYE WEEK

Week 6 (Sun. 10/15): vs. San Francisco 49ers, 1:00 p.m. 

Week 7 (Mon. 10/23): at Philadelphia Eagles, 8:30 p.m. 

Week 8 (Sun. 10/29): vs. Dallas Cowboys, 4:25 p.m.

Week 9 (Sun. 11/5): at Seattle Seahawks, 4:05 p.m.

Week 10 (Sun. 11/12): vs. Minnesota Vikings, 1:00 p.m. 

Week 11 (Sun. 11/29): at New Orleans Saints, 1:00 p.m.

Week 12 (Thurs. 11/23): vs. New York Giants, 8:30 p.m.

Week 13 (Thurs. 11/30): at Dallas Cowboys, 8:25 p.m. 

Week 14 (Sun. 12/10): at Los Angeles Chargers, 4:05 p.m. 

Week 15 (Sun. 12/17): vs. Arizona Cardinals, 1:00 p.m. 

Week 16 (Sun. 12/24): vs. Denver Broncos, 1:00 p.m.

Week 17 (Sun. 12/31): at New York Giants, 1:00 p.m. 

MORE REDSKINS: Can Washington hang on to its recent success?

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Can the Redskins sustain the success they had vs. the Raiders?

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Can the Redskins sustain the success they had vs. the Raiders?

The Redskins and their fans thoroughly enjoyed the team’s domination of the Raiders on Sunday night football.

As spectators’ voices return to normal and the team’s high settles into the routine of getting ready for the next game, it will be time to wonder what’s next?

Is what the Redskins did last night sustainable? Or will it end up being one of a few pleasant memories during another frustrating campaign?

There is no crystal ball that can give us the answer here.

The NFL is a week-to-week league and we often see a team show up for one game that bears little resemblance to the one who puts on the uniform the following week.

But there were some common traits from the Redskins’ last two games, both wins, that will help them going forward. Among them are:

MORE REDSKINS: FIVE TAKEAWAYS FROM THE BIG WIN

— Speed on defense — In particular, the additions of linebacker Zach Brown and rookie safety Montae Nicholson have given the Redskins a dimension they have lacked in the last several seasons. They say that speed doesn’t take a game off; it’s always there. If Nicholson and Brown show up for every game this year the defense has a chance to be great on a given day.

— Pass rush — The Redskins have at least one sack in their last 27 games and they have at least two sacks in every game this year. Pass defense starts with pass pressure and while the rush hasn’t been dominant throughout those 27 games, often they at least get some hurries and hits on the quarterback and over time those are nearly as effective as sacks. In that 27-game sack streak, the Redskins are 16-10-1, a .611 winning percentage.

— Quality cornerback play — Per Pro Football Focus, in three games Josh Norman and Bashaud Breeland have played a combined 116 snaps in pass coverage and have allowed a total of 10 receptions for 117 yards. Throw in nickel corner Kendall Fuller, who has an interception and a forced fumble on his ledger, and you have a group that can limit the damage done by opposing wide receivers. That often forces teams out of their comfort zones.

— Pass protection — Kirk Cousins has been the starting quarterback since the start of the 2015 season. In those 35 regular season games, he has been sacked zero or one time in 19 of those contests. If your quarterback has time, you have a chance.

RELATED: SOME AMAZING NUMBERS FROM THE REDSKINS’ WIN

— A good running game — For right now, this is the most problematic element of their recent success. Running the ball depends on, well, running the ball. If Jay Gruden sticks with it, the running game can help the team dominate time of possession and help the defense by keeping them off the field. Their ability to keep the ball on the ground is dependent on Cousins picking up third downs when necessary by throwing the ball and on the defense keeping the score close enough to allow for rushing to be a sound strategy.

The Redskins are unlikely to bring all five of these elements with them every week. But if they have three or four of them working they can expect to be competitive.

And on the occasions when they have all five you can get games like the one last night.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.