FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The Washington Redskins aren’t in position to beat the New England Patriots, let alone compare themselves to such a team. It’s just silly and nobody is going to try. The Redskins don’t have one of the all-time great coaches or arguably the best-ever quarterback. They have a second-year coach with one road win on his résumé and a quarterback still trying to prove he is a long-term answer as the starter.
What’s evident, though, is that the Redskins can -- and must -- learn lessons from a game like Sunday’s 27-10 loss. And it starts with three words: Do your job. It is a motto the Patriots adhere to, and it’s one that the Redskins completely ignored on Sunday. They dropped passes. They missed tackles. They failed to corral an onside kick. They were in position to do all of these things. They failed.
Sunday wasn’t about a win or a loss for Washington. Or about ripping the Redskins for losing by double digits to perhaps the best team in the NFL. But it was about playing well. If you want to become a good team, it is a basic requisite, because the more you play well consistently, the more you win eventually. Uneven outings lead to sub-.500 records, again and again. And coaching changes. And quarterback changes.
This wasn’t about playing the Patriots. It was about playing to a certain standard. That is what the Patriots do. Heck, they even dropped a couple of passes or missed on some throws that they usually make. It is why one Patriots writer after the game remarked in the elevator, “It’s going to be a bad locker room.”
But New England still scored 27 points and won by 17 because it consistently executes well. That’s coaching. That’s players buying in (and having an all-timer at quarterback, too). Still, the Redskins can execute better. A lot better. They have said the same thing about the run defense every week, and nothing has changed. Eventually, it’s the players who are changed. After that, it’s the coaches. Wash, rinse, repeat.
Back in the day, Marty Schottenheimer’s team or some of Joe Gibbs’ teams (in his second tenure) weren’t wildly talented. They did execute and play hard and smart. Let’s start with that as the baseline. If the Redskins want to establish anything in the second half of the season, there you go. Especially on defense: Be in the right spot to stop the run.
“You can’t drop balls you’re supposed to catch; you can’t not cover the guy you’re supposed to cover,” Redskins defensive end Chris Baker said. “They do a good job playing assignment football. We just got to get better making the plays we’re supposed to make.”
Said end Ricky Jean Francois, “They might miss [tackles] here and there. We were missing them left and right. They’re not dropping passes like we were. We had the opportunity to go toe-to-toe with this team, but it wasn’t there.”
You can almost forgive the dropped passes because, for the most part, they have not been an issue. But they were a massive issue on Sunday, killing drives and leading to an interception. Believe it or not, the Redskins and Patriots have the same number of drops this season (15), according to ESPN Stats & Information. Missed tackles also have been an issue over the past four games, in particular.
The Redskins didn’t take any solace in saying they could have won had they executed better. Nobody was fooling themselves to that degree, and there is frustration in the locker room. They’re not celebrating anything after losses anymore, and that’s a good sign. They need progress. And that starts with execution. You don’t have to have great players to be able to execute and play smart. You just need to ... do your job.
“They stick to the formula for what they do,” Redskins corner Will Blackmon said of the Patriots. “Tom [Brady] gets them to the perfect play. We just needed to play perfect defense and execute our matchups and not make many mistakes. We’re not at that point where we can drop passes and miss tackles and lose leverage in coverage and still overcome challenges. It’s important for us to practice perfect and challenge each other at Redskins Park. That’s what it is. They just execute. That’s why they’ve been good for so long.”
And why the Redskins have been so bad. Heck, they’re the antithesis of the Patriots when it comes to stability and success over the past 16 years.
“We’ve got to turn the corner and get ready for New Orleans, Carolina and then a bunch of division games coming up,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said.
It’s not quite “on to Cincinnati,” but you get the point. But to turn the corner, the Redskins must start to execute better. Tackle. Catch the ball. It’s basic but an absolute necessity. Otherwise, they won’t be turning a corner, they’ll be running into a brick wall.