MINNEAPOLIS — With a colossal collapse that resulted in a 34-27 loss to the Minnesota Vikings, the Washington Redskins fell to 3-6 and saw their hopes for turning their season around take another significant hit.
Throughout their woeful start to the season, Redskins players continually expressed optimism that a rebound remained possible. They pointed to last year’s resurrection from a 3-6 start with a near-magical seven-game win streak to close the regular season as evidence.
Following Sunday’s win over the San Diego Chargers, the Redskins seemed to have a chance to begin the turnaround a game earlier than last season. At 3-5, Washington appeared to have a realistic chance to get to 4-5 with Thursday’s game against the Vikings, who came in at a lowly 1-7.
The Redskins appeared well on their way to doing just that as they stormed out of the gates Thursday night, taking a 24-14 halftime lead that they stretched to 27-14 early in the third quarter.
But then came a meltdown that saw Washington’s defense surrender 20 unanswered points.
Washington’s offense, which managed only six first downs in the second half, proved incapable of completing a late charge, its final drive dying at the Vikings’ 4 following three straight incomplete passes. The Redskins failed once again to string together back-to-back victories.
“We had some breakdowns that we can’t have in those situations and it’s sad,” Robert Griffin III said after the game. “This loss hurts, but we have to pick ourselves and get back to work after the weekend. We have to keep pushing forward.”
Seven games remain, and the Redskins must win six — if not all seven — of them to have a chance to win their division and make the playoffs.
“I don’t want us to be 3-6. I wanted to be 4-5, but if anybody needs something to believe in, they can look at last year,” Griffin said. “If anybody in that locker room needs something, they can look at last year. We all still believe.
“These guys, we do it because [it’s] our jobs, but we also do it because we love the game, and we have to make sure we don’t lose that love sitting at 3-6, because that love for the game is what fueled us on a 7-0 run last year.”
This year’s challenge appears more daunting.
Up next is a meeting at Philadelphia, where the Redskins will face the team that beat them, 33-27, in the season opener. The Eagles have since struggled to play at the same level on a consistent basis.
Then comes a Monday Night Football contest at FedEx Field with the defending NFC champions San Francisco 49ers (6-2), winners of five straight (including three on the road).
The Redskins play another divisional game — their first against the New York Giants, and then face the Kansas City Chiefs, who currently are undefeated. A trip to Atlanta to face the struggling Falcons follows before the close the season with a home game against Dallas and then a trip to New York for the finale against the Giants.
The Redskins say the flashes they have shown — like those in the win over Chicago and then again last Sunday against San Diego, and the first-half success versus Minnesota — serve as confidence boosters They believe that those high points, and not the low points, reflect their ability.
But at the same time, they know that they cannot rest on last year’s success, because this year’s problem areas are different.
“We’re in a hole. We’re in a hole obviously,” outside linebacker Brian Orakpo said, slumped in front of his locker in the visitors’ locker room.
“People want to say, ‘These guys did it last year,’ but I couldn’t care less about last year. We just have to learn how to finish games. We’re in perfect position to win games, but we have to learn how to finish them. It’s something we have to focus on.”