Just eight weeks ago, the New York Giants were lifeless. They lost to the Redskins 23-10 on their home field to drop to 7-7. They were on the brink of playoff elimination.
From there, the Giants won six consecutive games to claim Super Bowl XLVI, 21-17 over the New England Patriots.
Sure, the Redskins beat the Giants twice last season, and some fans may want to take solace in that.
They may want to pay more attention to how the Giants did it.
Stay in the playoff mix the first three months of the regular season. Get hot in the stretch run and sneak into the playoffs as a low seed. Pull off an upset or two in the postseason before winning the Super Bowl in dramatic fashion.
So it seems that, even in the final weeks of the regular season, it’s never too late to make a Super Bowl run.
This formula worked for the Green Bay Packers used in 2010, too.
Remember, they were 8-6 and on the brink of playoff elimination before they went on a six-game winning streak to capture the Super Bowl.
This is what the NFL has become now.
Says here this is not an ideal way to crown a champion – 9-7 wins the Super Bowl? Really? – but give the Giants credit for doing it their way.
What can the 5-11 Redskins learn from it?
We all know the ideal way to make a Super Bowl run is to win 12-13 games, claim a first-round bye and then march through the playoffs.
Well, the Giants proved that if a team stays afloat in the playoff mix through mid-December, anything can happen.
Going into the season, the Giants clearly had Super Bowl-caliber talent, and that talent played well enough to win seven games and poorly enough to lose seven games.
The first 14 games were merely prologue, though.
Another lesson? Teams can be a lower seed – the Giants were the No. 4 seed in the NFC – and still win.
Certainly the Redskins must be more competitive in the first 12 weeks of the regular season. No team with championship aspirations can afford a midseason six-game losing streak.
And the Redskins must perform better in November and December, when playoff-bound teams start to play with a greater sense of urgency.
Since 2003, the Redskins are just 10-26, a .277 winning percentage, in November.
And since 2008, the Redskins are just 4-15, a 210 winning percentage, in December.
How to turn around late-season fortunes?
After the Redskins’ 23-10 win over the Giants in Week 15, several players – nose tackle
“They way we played in all three phases, offense, defense and special teams all clicking together, if we play like that we can beat anybody,” Cofield said. “That has to be our focus, to play like that every week.”
After the season, linebacker and special teams stalwart
“We just don’t perform at a high level all the time, and that’s what it comes down to,” Alexander said. “Getting defensive stops, turnovers, special teams not supplying that big play to get the team going on a consistent basis, and all three phases playing together – if you continue to play like we did, then you’re going to end up with a record that’s sub-par.”
And out of the playoff mix altogether.
Conversely, the Giants gave themselves a chance. And they capitalized.
In this era of the NFL, that's all you need to do.