In the beginning of the 2011 season, it looked like the Redskins had learned the art of finishing games.
In the opener, they were nursing a seven-point lead over the Giants going into the fourth quarter. The defense stonewalled Eli Manning and company after a Rex Grossman fumble gave New York a chance to tie the game. Then, Grossman threw a touchdown pass to Jabar Gaffney to wrap it up.
After protecting the lead in the opener, they came from behind to beat Arizona the next week. After the Cardinals took an eight-point lead with 10 minutes to play, Grossman threw a clutch, 18-yard, fourth-down touchdown pass to Santana Moss to make it a two-point game. Then the Redskins drove to a go-ahead Graham Gano field goal and preserved the 22-21 win by recovering a fumble.
Two games, two solid finishes. But over the next 11 games they largely forgot whatever they had learned.
--In Dallas, they had a 16-12 lead going into the fourth quarter. But they couldn’t hold Dallas on a third and 21 play and lost 17-16.
--The Redskins did win in St. Louis but they limped to the finish. After taking a 17-0 lead in the second half they had to hang on and survive a Rams possession with a chance to tie in the late going.
--Against the Cowboys at FedEx Field, the Redskins drove to a game-tying touchdown pass in the final minute. But despite winning the overtime coin toss, they only got close enough for Gano to try a 52-yard field goal. He missed it and Dallas drove down for the game winning three-pointer.
--They held a 16-13 lead over the Jets with five minutes left in the game. The offense, defense, and special teams all contributed to a collapse as New York scored three touchdowns to win 34-19.
--On Sunday against the Patriots, the Redskins trailed 34-27 and had a first and goal at the nine with a chance to either send the game into overtime or possibly win it with a touchdown and two-point conversion. A pass interference call on Moss, hotly disputed by the veteran receiver, negated a touchdown and then a ball went through Moss’ hands and into those of linebacker Jerod Mayo.
In the midst of that, the Redskins did rally from a 17-7 fourth-quarter deficit to win in Seattle. But the balance of the evidence states that knowing how to finish games is a skill that eludes this Redskins team.