EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Nothing is unfamiliar here: A blowout loss to the New York Giants, and the Washington Redskins are now on a different path than the one they hoped to be on just two days earlier.
Pick your season, and it seems to aptly describe what happened after most games in the Meadowlands.
This time, the Redskins can’t get derailed again. If they are a different team, as we’ve heard more than a few players and coaches say, then next week vs. the Eagles will be just as big as the one that just ended with a 32-21 loss to the Giants. When you’re trying to rebuild a program, you'll have big stumbles. Thursday was a massive one that occurred in prime time.
That’s why the national perception of the Redskins remains the same: bad team with a quarterback who turns the ball over too much. Don’t like it? Change it -- with your play. Yet a few of the people who will be ripping the Redskins this morning were probably sizing them up as NFC East contenders before Thursday’s game. So which team are they? In truth, neither. It was too early to stamp them as contenders; you don't get that honor after a home win against a team that hasn't had a winning record in more than a decade. But the signs they showed vs. St. Louis were positive; last night was not. Right now, this is who the Redskins are as a team.
“When we do go back and watch the game, we’ll realize it was us beating ourselves,” Redskins center Kory Lichtensteiger said. “It’s frustrating, but at the same time, it’s encouraging knowing that you did everything except score. We didn’t put ourselves in good situations. ... I think this team has strong enough character that we can respond. We know what we’re capable of. It didn’t go the way we wanted it to, but we’ll learn our lessons and we’ll put it together for the next game.”
Saying you’re a different team doesn’t always mean winning games like Thursday. The reason it’s hard to always believe what you hear is because Thursday followed such a familiar script. The minute that punt was blocked in the first quarter, it was hard to think anything other than "Here they go again." And, of course, there they went.
The key now is to not let it linger. The loss is over; deal with it and move on. The tricky part for fans, of course, is believing that anything indeed is different, because it looked -- and had to feel -- all too familiar. Those who didn’t believe in quarterback Kirk Cousins will scream “See!” Those who want to believe will say “Uh-oh.”
But the troubling part is that the defense didn’t do its job, either. They fed off the ball-control offense the first two weeks, but when that wasn’t working, the defense provided zero impact. Should the entire team stumble if one unit does? Again: rebuilding. There’s little margin for error. Last night, they provided too many chances for the Giants to do what they did.
“We were never able to establish our type of football,” Redskins tackle Trent Williams said. “We turn the ball over way too much. When we didn’t turn it over, we moved the ball pretty well.”
See, that frustration with turnovers spills onto the players and coaches, too. Even those who believe in Cousins can't ignore the miscues. The real problem Washington has is the lack of legitimate alternatives. But that turnover frustration is not just directed at one guy, either. Running back Matt Jones has fumbled twice in the past two games. They’ve had one punt blocked and on two other times, they nearly had it happen. Goodness sakes.
“Giving up a blocked punt for a safety? That’s inexcusable,” Williams said. “We can’t make those mistakes and expect to win; turning the ball over twice in scoring position? We can’t make those mistakes.”
No, they can’t. But the biggest mistake would be letting this loss lead to another and another. But here’s the thing: The Redskins play two games on the road after the Eagles. So the next game is a big one. Initially I had them at 6-10 this season; no reason to change before Thursday and no reason yet to change after. I do like the mindset that has been developing and the formula they want to use. I don’t like all the injuries that are testing their depth too early.
The locker room after the game was frustrated without a doubt: over the turnovers, over the loss, over the inability to make a play defensively. Fingers can
be pointed in all directions.
“We just need to get it together,” fullback Darrel Young said. “The good thing is it’s early in the season. ... We’ve got to come back.”
Yes, they do. Can they? We’ll learn a lot about them with how they respond to the Thursday debacle.
“We’re no stranger to a loss,” Williams said. “We can’t let one game define our whole season.”