Redskins' ugly losses will lead to tough questions down the stretch

CARSON, Calif. -- The Washington Redskins once again have entered dangerous territory. For a second straight game, they didn’t look like a banged-up team -- they looked like a bad one. And that’s not going to cut it down the stretch.

Washington lost its second consecutive ugly game, this time 30-13 to the Los Angeles Chargers. That means, in two games against teams that are hovering around .500, the Redskins lost by a combined 41 points.

“I have regressed ... so it’s on me,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “We have not been competitive. We weren’t ready to play and that’s on me [and my] staff. We could have done a better job to get these guys ready.”

He called it surprising and disappointing.

“It’s something we have to figure out how to fix the last three weeks without a doubt,” Gruden said. “I never thought we’d get beat like this two weeks in a row, one week at all.”

But safety D.J. Swearinger said what happened wasn’t surprising. He noticed issues during the week.

“It was just like blah, blah. OK, we’re out here at practice, blah, blah,” Swearinger said. “You don’t prepare well, you’re going to fail. It’s all of us, players and coaches. We have to be more prepared.”

The Redskins (5-8), with no more playoff hopes, found ways to look bad in every facet Sunday. They allowed 488 total yards and points on Los Angeles’ first five drives. They managed one touchdown, but missed the extra point. They averaged 2.6 yards per carry versus a defense that entered No. 31 in the league against the run.

They lost one player, running back Byron Marshall, to a hamstring injury when he stumbled on the turf trying to field a kickoff.

One of the Redskins’ best plays: letting Chargers running back Austin Ekeler run 33 yards to the 4-yard line with no time left in the first half. Of course, they really didn’t let him gain those yards. But the end result was no last-second field goal attempt. On this day, the Redskins had to take minor victories whenever they could.

They all said the right things during the week. They had something to play for; the games still mattered, even if the playoffs were a long shot. Backups talked about getting a chance they feared might not come.

There’s a reality here, too. The injuries thinned out a decent roster and, by Sunday, the Redskins were down to one running back late in the game -- LeShun Daniels, a former practice-squad player. Earlier in the week, the Redskins’ running backs worked on pass-protection drills that position coach Randy Jordan typically would do on the first day of training camp.

“We just don’t have a lot of room to make a mistake here and there and then still be right there in the fourth quarter,” quarterback Kirk Cousins said. “If we have something happen to us, it can slip away more quickly than we would want or would have in the first couple weeks of the season.”

For a while, the Redskins were a gritty team that kept coming close. Perhaps they had too much taken out of them. But they aren't doing anything well right now. Any penalty becomes a costly one. They don’t force turnovers. Their defense has not progressed, a function in part of all the injuries.

Gruden’s job should be safe, considering what the team endured with injuries. He signed a two-year extension in the offseason, so he has three more years on his deal. But injuries won’t excuse everything for owner Dan Snyder, will they? They don’t explain everything. Passes still can be on target; routes still can be won on slants; your highest-paid corner still can not get duped on a flea-flicker.

That’s not suggesting Snyder would make a change -- no one knows. But the Redskins don’t want to put Snyder in a bad spot, either, and stumble to an ugly record. Even 7-9 would look rather good right now.

“I keep telling myself Rome wasn’t built in a day,” said Redskins corner Josh Norman, who played a role in giving up two long passes. “I keep sticking with that until something tells me otherwise. That’s my hope. That’s my hope.

“We’ve got to finish strong. That’s all you can do. It’s tough. I didn’t foresee it happening, but it has.”

The Redskins have three games to get it right.