For Trent Murphy and his Washington Redskins teammates, the equation is simple and familiar: win out and secure a playoff berth. Last year in a similar scenario, the Redskins flourished, winning five straight to win the NFC East. This year, they’ll need a little help, currently sitting in the seventh spot behind Tampa Bay.
After a disappointing loss in Trent’s home state of Arizona, the Redskins rebounded with a critical divisional win against Philadelphia. On Philly’s final offensive play of the game, with the Redskins leading by a single score, Ryan Kerrigan beat his man on a pass rush and forced a fumble from quarterback Carson Wentz. When the dust cleared on the play, Trent had recovered the game-winning fumble.
Washington will need to continue to get dominant production from TM and the defensive front seven down the stretch. The team has played in a slew of close games, with 10 contests decided by a single score. Trent and company have won five of these close games, finishing in a tie against Cincinnati.
“We’ve been tested in every area that should be tested in situational football,” said defensive end Chris Baker of their season thus far.
This week, the Redskins welcome the defending NFC champion Carolina Panthers to FedEx Field on Monday Night Football, where they’ll look to avenge a lopsided loss against the Steelers earlier in the season on MNF. The Panthers are 5-8 and just 1-4 on the road, but with Cam Newton calling the shots at quarterback, the defense will always be facing a challenge.
“I know if you have a quarterback named Cam Newton on your football team you have a chance to win every game” said head coach Jay Gruden. “He is 6-foot-5 and a half, 260-some pounds. We played him last year at Carolina and he beat us pretty good. So we know we have our work cut out for us, we’re going to have to be really on top of our assignments with the zone reads and the quarterback runs, and obviously the play actions with Ted Ginn are going to be tough to stop.”
While the Panthers haven’t been as efficient as they were last season en route to a Super Bowl appearance, the team is still dangerous on both sides of the ball. Newton is closing in on 3,000 passing yards despite missing time this season with injuries, but Carolina signal-callers have been sacked 29 times this season, a statistic that TM and company hope to increase.
The game will kick off on ESPN from FedEx Field at 8:30 p.m. ET on Monday night.