Still, this one was especially painful for Washington, which believed it had repaired many of its problems after a win two weeks earlier and then a bye. Instead, Griffin joined his teammates, staring ahead — toward another week in which Washington will seek solutions before it’s too late.
“I couldn’t tell you how excited we were,” fullback Darrel Young said after his team’s 31-16 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
The atmosphere inside the visiting locker room was dazed and, other than a few murmurs about missed opportunities, quiet. This time the special teams had let the group down; penalties and long kick returns the narrative rather than a promising defensive effort.
Through five weeks, Washington has settled into this morning-after funk: reliving weaknesses ranging from a generous defense to concerns about Griffin’s mobility and how he was being used. And now this.
“Definitely the losses are not what we had planned for, expected or were prepared for,” cornerback Josh Wilson said. “But we’ve got to accept our destiny right now and change it.”
Young said the team’s attitude following the bye was “positive,” and that’s what a victory in Oakland and two weeks of reflection is worth. Griffin was showing signs of improvement, Coach Mike Shanahan and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan were getting back to the offense that pushed Washington to the NFC East title in 2012, and Jim Haslett’s defense was shaking off signs of disorganization. This was a team that had, finally, identified its strengths, and this game in Dallas was meant to showcase more of them.
And it did, though now those highlights are buried under a dozen penalties, two second-half turnovers, and three trips to the red zone without a touchdown. Optimism is somewhere in that pile, too, though players believe it can be recovered.
“It’s easy to just give up, man, but these guys are my team,” defensive end Stephen Bowen said. “We’ve got a lot of character. Everybody’s just going to come back to work and ready to just get it. We have no other choice but to try to win games.”
At this point in the regular season, about a third of the way through, psychology is the most important thing for an NFL team. Give up now, and a turnaround is impossible. Look toward the positives and the next game, and at least there’s hope.
“There’s no quit in this team,” Griffin said.
Young said the worst part about Sunday’s loss was that it was another chance for Washington take control of its season, rather than wait for another division team to collapse. The Redskins are 0-2 in NFC East games, and early as it still is, the countdown is on for Washington to curb its problems if it plans to contend.
The team hosts the 4-2 Chicago Bears on Sunday afternoon at FedEx Field. The Bears are 11th in total offense, but maybe more concerning for Washington is that, unlike the Redskins, they have seven more takeaways than giveaways. Washington is minus-1 in turnover differential, as much to blame as anything for the team’s record.
“We’re 1-4 at this point,” Young said. “We can talk about what we can do, we can finish 12-4 — it doesn’t matter at this point. We’ve got to plan for Chicago, and we’ve got to watch the film and ourselves.”
After Sunday’s loss, Mike Shanahan chose to focus on the things his team did well.
“All you’ve got to do is concentrate on your next practice and try to get better,” he said. “That’s all you can do. You’ve got perseverance. You have guys that work; believe in themselves, and to have our defense come out and play the way they did was pretty encouraging.”
For his part, Young said he was following his coach’s line of thinking. The memory of last year’s turnaround from 3-6 to a seven-game win streak is still fresh, and besides, not every team can point at something like that.
Sure, the locker room was somber, and the faces were blank. But rather than thinking of the next game as the next chance to get their teeth kicked in, Washington’s players for now see Sunday as an opportunity to pull things together.
“They beat us, yeah, and obviously you want to win these games,” Young said. “But what are we going to do the next  weeks to basically separate ourselves and put ourselves in situations where we don’t have to worry about another team controlling our destiny?”
He said his mood, anyway, was unchanged.
“It’s still positive. It’s football,” he said. “. . . We’ve got to look at ourselves in the mirror Monday, Tuesday; practice hard Wednesday, Thursday; come back Sunday and play the Bears at home.
“You’ve got to start somewhere.”