After a loss in Minneosta on Thursday Night Football, the Washington Redskins find themselves in the all-too-familiar position of 3-6, staring at last place in the NFC East.
While far from comfortable, this is a situation that the Redskins have found motivation in before, approaching the last seven games of the 2012 season with a do-or-die approach that delivered the NFC East title.
If the team has any hopes of repeating this remarkable feat, head coach Mike Shanahan says it starts this week with all 53 men on-board.
"The bottom line is to be 4-6," he said of the team's goals. "When we were 3-6 a year ago, we had one goal and that was to improve and become 4-6, and to do that we have to have a group effort.
"This loss [Thursday] was a team loss, just like against San Diego I thought it was a team win. You’ve got to do it collectively to get it done, and hopefully we can do that."
Washington plays four of the final seven games will come versus NFL East opponents, a schedule that gives the Redskins traction to surge in the standings.
Of the final three games, the Redskins also score the Andy Reid-led Kansas City Chiefs, a system that should look similar to the offense he ran for years in Philadelphia.
For the final two games, the Redskins play a disorganized Atlanta Falcons (2-7) team on the road and very mortal San Francisco 49ers (6-3) at home on Monday Night Football.
Four of the final seven contests will also be at home, including three in a row between Weeks 12-14.
Overall, the final seven opponents bring a winning percentage of .507, and perhaps the most winnable stretch of the season.
“We’ve had great effort. It’s putting a full game together," Shanahan said. "You’ve got to put enough points up there to win and that’s our goal, to make sure that we can do that."
After a dismal start to the season, Shanahan said he has been impressed with the improvement, character and resolve the team has shown in recent weeks.
"You take a look at our offense and I think anytime you’re second in the league in rushing and first in rushing average you’re doing some good things," he said. "We improved yardage-wise in passing.
"Special teams, we’ve made some strides. Our coverage teams are much better than they have been. We’re getting a little bit more continuity with our players feeling more comfortable with our system. Defensively, we’ve talked about that as well"
Just like last season, the Redskins enter an improbable stretch of must-win games in order to make the playoffs. While a 9-7 team may win the NFC East, the surest way to make the playoffs is to win at least 10 games.
If the team lives up to its potential, Shanahan thinks this team has what it takes.
"At times we’ve been very effective, so we have to play our best football in the second half of the season," he said. "We’ve played some good halves over the last three or four games, but we’ve got to put complete games together to get where we want to get."