Reporting David Elfin
Redskins Nation might be in the throes of despair in the wake of Washington’s stunning 0-3 start, but the players in Ashburn aren’t.
“The locker room’s the same,” said receiver Santana Moss, the senior Redskin after nine seasons in Washington. “When you guys leave, we’re back to playing our music and having fun and knowing we have a job at hand. We don’t really sit here and dwell on the stuff that’s going on because that’s not the way you’re gonna get over it. Our focus is going out here and putting some work on the field today. Once [last Sunday’s loss to Detroit] was over, it was over. It hurts for a day and you think about what you could have did better, but once you look at it on film and you correct those mistakes, you move on to the next week.”
That next week ends Sunday in Oakland against the 1-2 Raiders, who haven’t made the playoffs since 2002. If the Redskins lose again, it would take a near-unparalleled turnaround for them to make it two straight playoff appearances for the first time since 1992. Coincidentally, that’s the last year that an NFL team, San Diego, recovered from a 0-4 start to reach postseason.
“It would be just awful,” nose tackle Barry Cofield said about the possibility of being 0-4 heading into next week’s bye with games against Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas (two), Denver, Kansas City, Minnesota, the New York Giants (two), Philadelphia, San Diego and San Francisco still ahead.
Washington’s defense has been awful so far, allowing an NFL-record 1,464 yards through three games, but seventh-year defensive end Kedric Golston isn’t downbeat.
“We understand we’re 0-3, but however you were feeling, that’s over and done with,” Golston said. “Feelings won’t change the reality of the situation. I feel like going and beating the Raiders. The plan hasn’t changed. The mindset hasn’t changed. I don’t think the sky’s falling down. Everyone’s feeling the pressure of being 0-3, but you have your core beliefs that you gotta stay with. Everybody needs to do a better job of executing. No matter what defense is called, it comes down to people making plays.”
Make that making tackles.
“I think tackling is more or less a mindset,” Golston said. “You don’t have to take people to the ground [in practice] to be a good tackler. In the NFL today, [offenses] create space. As a defense, we never want to put people in situations where they have to make a one-on-one tackle because we understand the skill level in this league is tremendous.”
The Redskins certainly have skill players on offense led by Moss and fellow receiver Pierre Garcon, quarterback Robert Griffin III – last year’s Offensive Rookie of the Year — and record-setting running back Alfred Morris. And yet, until Morris crossed the goal line with 3:29 left in the second quarter of the 27-20 loss to the Lions, Washington’s only points before halftime in any of their games had come on returns of a fumble and an interception by cornerback DeAngelo Hall.
“It definitely helps to score early,” said center Will Montgomery. “You don’t want to get down early because it turns into a passing game. All last year, we were able to run our base offense and do whatever we wanted to. But when you get down a few scores, you start playing catch-up which is not a fun way to play.”
The 2012 Redskins had plenty of fun while winning their final seven games to finish 10-6 and win their first NFC East title in 13 years. The start to 2013 has been the opposite. And yet, after only being further behind than a touchdown for just 2:16 against the Lions after trailing big most the way against the Eagles and Packers, the Redskins believe that they’re heading in the right direction.
“It’s hard to have that swagger sitting at 0-3, but I don’t think the team has lost that sense of confidence,” said quarterback Robert Griffin III, whose 46.3 passes per game put him on pace to break the record of 45.4 set by Detroit’s Matthew Stafford in 2012.”We know how close we are. We know we can turn it around. I have a lot of faith in this football team, a lot of faith in my teammates, coaches.”
Leave it to co-captain London Fletcher, Washington’s wise old head at 38, to find another silver lining, the NFC East’s 1-7 record against the rest of the league. Only the 2-1 Cowboys (who beat the 0-3 Giants) are above .500. The 1-2 Eagles’ only victory was over the Redskins.
“We’re [only] two games out [with five NFC East games remaining],” Fletcher noted. “In most situations, you’d probably have somebody 3-0 in your division and another team 2-1.”
At 0-3, a wild card is hard to envision, but someone has to win the division. Just three years ago, Seattle won the NFC West at 7-9. Maybe that’s all it will take in the formerly fearsome East this season.
David Elfin began writing about sports when he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School. He is Washington’s representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and the author of seven books, most recently, “Washington Redskins: The Complete Illustrated History.” A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan the last two Redskins seasons, he has been its columnist since last March. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidElfin