UPDATED: Sept. 14, 2015 6:33 a.m.
WASHINGTON — They trudged off the field they way they have so many times before: Shuffled feet. Heads bowed. Slumped shoulders.
The Redskins lost their season opener to the Miami Dolphins at FedEx Field on Sunday, 17-10. Some of the old problems resurfaced with untimely penalties, turnovers and yet another special teams disaster. It was a game Washington led 10-0 before things went haywire.
The Redskins are now 0-1 and next Sunday face a St. Louis Rams team that demolished them at FedEx Field last season. Is there any reason to believe anything will change in 2015?
“We’re a different team. It’s way different,” left tackle Trent Williams said. “I don’t know how many starters we got [back] from last year. But I know we have a lot of new guys who play pivotal roles on this team. We’re just a different team all together.”
Indeed, there were positives to tease from the loss. Alfred Morris led a strong rushing attack with 121 yards on 25 carries. He topped 100 rushing yards just once last season. Twice quarterback Kirk Cousins was intercepted by the Dolphins. But he also shook off a particularly bad one in the first half to lead a 17-play scoring drive – Washington’s longest since 2012.
“We’ve just got to hone in on the small things. If we do that, we’re going to be a hell of a football team,” defensive end Jason Hatcher said. “Nobody wants to lose, but it’s light at the end of the tunnel, man, when you look at this football team. We’ve just got to go in Wednesday and be hard on ourselves and get better.”
Hatcher and the defense forced a turnover, sacked Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill three times and allowed just 10 points. They were stout inside the red zone and helped keep the Dolphins from capitalizing on good opportunities. The Redskins were competitive in a game some thought they wouldn’t be. But the result remained the same. After 3-13 and 4-12 seasons, it’s hard to keep the ghosts of those seasons at bay.
“We battled and came up short,” Cousins said. “I guess we’re all pretty tired of that around here.”
Kicker Kai Forbath missed a 46-yard field goal. Special teams gave up a back-breaking 69-yard punt return to Jarvis Landry in the fourth quarter.
And the penalties: Washington had a first down at the Miami 28 and a 10-7 lead at 4:58 of the third quarter. Morris’ 6-yard run put the Redskins in scoring position.
But a delay-of-game on Cousins, an offensive pass interference penalty on tight end Jordan Reed and a hold on reserve tackle Ty Nsekhe pushed the Redskins out of field goal range. The Dolphins tied the game on their next drive at 11:34 of the fourth quarter.
Washington had a chance to answer. But a solid gain by Morris on first down was wiped out by a hold on tight end Derek Carrier. Moments later, right tackle Morgan Moses was whistled for a personal foul and committed a hold on the next play. Miami declined that one. They declined the illegal formation penalty the referee called, too.
The Redskins had done plenty to stop themselves already. On the ensuing punt, no one so much as touched Landry on his way up the middle for the deciding score. It all fell apart that quickly.
“I’m not going to be down,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “I’m upset that we lost, but I think there’s a lot of good things going on. I feel like we’re competing. I feel like we’re playing physical football and that’s what I like. There’s a lot to build off this game.”
But while those positives were clear and noted, the frustration in Washington’s locker room was evident, too. As Cousins said, they have been here too many times before. Can the returning players shake off a disappointing home loss? Can they stem the self-inflicted wounds that always seem to bite bad teams?
“You’re either going to show up or you’re going to back down,” Morris said. “I think we’re going to continue to show up.”
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