Tight end Chris Cooley had lost 64 previous games in eight seasons with the Redskins, and none felt particularly good. But the team’s 18-16 loss at Dallas Monday night stung because he’s convinced this year’s Redskins team is built for the playoffs — despite the way it looked against the Cowboys.
“It feels like a waste of a week,” he said after the defeat.
Still, Cooley scanned the visiting team’s locker room at Cowboys Stadium late Monday night and said neither his confidence nor his optimism had been shaken by a the two-point loss on the road.
“I don’t have a concern about how we’ll respond,” he said. “We’ll be fully prepared to come to work on Wednesday. . . . I know there are a lot of guys who can’t wait to get back out there.”
In the NFL, wins are a great gauge of talent and potential. It’s the losses, though, that coaches say measure character. More specifically, it’s the days and weeks that follow a tough loss. Monday marked not only the team’s first defeat of the young season, but a defeat that came at the hands of a division rival.
“I’m not gonna lie to you,” linebacker Brian Orakpo said, “this hurts.”
Washington players will report to Redskins Park Wednesday morning and try to shake off the demoralizing loss. They will quickly turn their attention to Sunday’s game at St. Louis.
Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan’s Denver teams lost 86 regular season games during his 14 seasons as head coach there. On 51 occasions, the Broncos responded with a victory the following week.
“You find out what type of football team you got,” Shanahan said. “Like I told our football team, any time you put your heart and soul into a game and you lose, especially like that, it hurts. But you don’t have time to feel sorry for yourself.”
The Redskins have even less time following Monday’s loss. Typically, a team suffers defeat on a Sunday and reviews film Monday, takes Tuesday off and mentally refocuses on a new opponent and game plan Wednesday.
Because the Redskins game was on a Monday night, the team plane didn’t land in the Washington area until around 6 a.m. Tuesday. Players had the day off and are expected to do an abbreviated review of the Cowboys’ game Wednesday before moving on to the St. Louis game.
“It’s gonna be tough,” Shanahan said of the shorter week. “You got to fight through it and find a way to get ready for the Rams.”
One goal is to identify mistakes, learn lessons and quickly apply them. There were plenty of mistakes against the Cowboys. The Redskins had only 65 rushing yards in an uneven attack,including an average of less than three yards per carry from running backs Tim Hightower and Roy Helu.
The offense converted only three of 12 third-down attempts and was successful just once in three visits inside the Dallas 20-yard line. Quarterback Rex Grossman committed two turnovers and the defense gave up a big play when they could least afford it. For the third game in a row, the team botched a field goal attempt.
“I guess we didn’t make enough plays as a team,” cornerback DeAngelo Hall said. “We kind of have to feed off each other. When the offense is slumping, as a defense, you’ve got to go out there and make more plays. And vice versa: When the defense is slumping, the offense has to go out and make more plays. This is a total group effort.”
Veterans who’ve been in Washington for a few years have endured their share of losses — a total of 31, in fact, since the team’s last playoff game — and know they can’t afford to put too much stock into one September defeat.
“I don’t feel like we took a step back. We just lost the game,” said 11th-year wide receiver Santana Moss. “You’re going to win some, you’re going to lose some. . . . It’s going to hurt, but at the end of the day you’ve got to move on. You’ve got a game next week.”