Redskins' confidence shaken

ASHBURN, Va. – The Washington Redskins had a quarterback who wasn’t exactly himself and a defense that wasn’t among the NFL’s best. Yet they kept winning late last season, as the offense kept surging even with a hobbled Robert Griffin III. While the defense turned its season around, it only meant the unit went from bad to mediocre.

But the momentum had begun to gather. And that’s something the Redskins are searching for now after an 0-3 start.

“It’s hard to be confident when you’re not winning,” Redskins defensive tackle Barry Cofield said. “It’s all about wins and losses. Being confident means winning the game. The feeling of getting that first win will take a load off of guys' shoulders. It will get a lot of pressure and scrutiny off our backs, at least temporarily.”

Which is what happened in 2012, when they turned 3-6 into 10-6. Once their confidence grew, it didn’t matter that Griffin missed a game or was not 100 percent the rest of the way. They kept winning.

“It’s a momentum thing,” Cofield said. “That’s the biggest thing. When you’re a confident team, if the ball doesn’t somehow bounce your way you find a way to regain that momentum. And I don’t feel we’ve done that now.”

No, they haven’t, which is why they’re winless. It could be a penalty or a turnover or missed assignment. Regardless, every mistake is magnified because it’s so hard for Washington to overcome them.

Cofield said that’s evident, too, when another team adjusts to whatever the Redskins are doing. He blames the players, not the coaches, for this issue.

“A lot of times we throw a punch, and then a team will adjust and we don’t counterpunch again,” he said. “It’s a game of swings, and I feel we get off to a fast start and a team will adjust and switch up to what we’ve done, and we don’t react well when we’re asked to make changes. The coaching staff lets us know what’s going on and asks us to change here or there, and I don’t feel we’ve done a good job handling that.”

Redskins coach Mike Shanahan liked what he saw in Sunday’s 27-20 loss to Detroit, even if the Lions still managed 441 yards of offense, without running back Reggie Bush playing.

“I was really pleased with our defense,” Shanahan said. “It was much better than the first two games. Not as good as we wanted. Any time you give up that many big plays, there are some deficiencies there, but I like the direction we’re headed.”

The players want results more than direction. As corner Josh Wilson said, what they want to take away from a game is a victory, not progress.

But they know there’s only one way to react to this start.

“This is a test of our team,” Wilson said, “to see if we are who we say we are. Are we a team that’s going to never give up? A team of confidence? We got tested last year and we saw what kind of team we had. We’re going to be the same team we were last year and never give up.”