It's been almost two months since the Washington Redskins won a game, yet they've managed to remain optimistic things could get better. It just might not be this weekend against the improving Seattle Seahawks.
Mired in their longest skid in 13 years, the visiting Redskins look to avoid a seventh consecutive loss Sunday while trying to prevent the Seahawks from winning three in a row for the first time in four seasons.
After winning three of its first four games, Washington (3-7) appeared to have the makings of a playoff team. That quickly changed when the Redskins came off their bye week and lost 20-13 at home to Philadelphia on Oct. 16. That began the team's six-game losing streak, its longest since a seven-game drought to open the 1998 season.
"This whole thing just stinks," quarterback Rex Grossman said.
Though the Redskins have been outscored 142-77 during the skid, they feel things might be turning after last Sunday's 27-24 overtime home loss to Dallas.
Grossman was 25 of 38 for 292 yards with two touchdowns, including a 4-yard score to Donte' Stallworth with 14 seconds left to force overtime. It was just the second time in eight games Washington scored 20 or more points.
"I feel like something clicked,'' Grossman said. "It's just a gut feeling of mine that our offense has finally maybe turned the corner. But you can't say that until you go out and prove it week-in and week-out.''
Though Grossman enjoyed some personal success and Jabar Gaffney caught seven passes for 115 yards and a TD, the Redskins still can't run the ball.
Washington, which totaled 60 yards on the ground against the Cowboys, ranks 30th in the NFL averaging 84.0 rushing yards per game - its fewest since 1968 (83.1). Stuck with third-year pro Ryan Torain and rookie Roy Helu in the backfield, the Redskins have averaged just 55.5 during the six-game skid.
While coach Mike Shanahan remains committed to the run, he might continue to let Grossman try to win games with his arm, especially if Santana Moss returns this weekend. The veteran receiver missed the last four games with a broken hand.
Even with the playoffs all but out of reach for a fourth straight season, the Redskins feel last week's effort against Dallas proved they can still be competitive.
"It just gives you a lot of confidence. You're just excited on the sidelines,'' defensive tackle Barry Cofield said. "You feel like you've got a puncher's chance, and that's all you can ask for. We feel like if our offense scores more than 20 points, we should win.''
Producing that many points might be a challenge against a Seattle team that has allowed 24 points while winning its last two games versus Baltimore and St. Louis after giving up 57 the previous two contests.
The Seahawks (4-6), who have not won three straight since a five-game run in 2007, allowed a season-low 185 total yards in last weekend's 24-7 win over the Rams. Seattle has forced six turnovers and recorded six sacks over the last two weeks.
"To get that kind of execution, that's going back to the reservoir and having guys remember the calls and how they fit together and the principles we need to play that stuff, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "That's when you're maturing as a group.''
Offensively, the running of veteran Marshawn Lynch has paced the Seahawks, who have scored 46 points the last two weeks after totaling 28 while losing the previous three games. Lynch, who rushed for 88 yards on 27 carries against the Rams, has averaged 110.7 over the last three games and scored a TD in his last six contests.
"I really think that's the makeup we want to be in and we want to be very productive in that makeup but that adds to the balance and fits together with the way I've been thinking about it since the day I got here," Carroll said.
Though Washington has won the last five regular-season meetings with Seattle dating to a 24-14 road loss Sept. 20. 1998, the Seahawks knocked the Redskins out of the playoffs during the 2005 and 2007 seasons. Washington won 20-17 in the teams' last meeting Nov. 23, 2008.