By Rick Maese
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
One day after his team's bruising Week 1 loss to the New York Giants, Jim Zorn stood behind a podium and before taking reporters' questions, he ran down the team's brief injury report.
"We didn't have many injuries," the Redskins' coach said. "We had Brian Orakpo [who] has got an owie on his elbow. He's going to be fine. Chris Samuels got dinged a little bit out there, but he's fine. Probably got a headache. Really, I can't tell you any more than that. We came out of it pretty good."
Translation: The Redskins emerged from Sunday's 23-17 loss at New York in good physical condition. Players said Monday they'll enter this Sunday's home opener against the St. Louis Rams in a good emotional state, as well, despite the team's struggles at New York and the lopsided nature of the loss.
"I really wasn't upset because after all we had done -- which was nothing, offensively -- we as a team, we were still right there in that game," said wide receiver Santana Moss, who had just six yards on two receptions against the Giants.
As the team returned home to take stock of its wounds -- both the physical dings and the mental owies -- they reviewed game tape and discovered a laundry list of to-do items, perhaps none as important as the identity questions the team faces on both sides of the ball.
The Redskins' offense struggled to find its rhythm Sunday until the waning moments, while the defensive unit, ranked No. 4 in the league a season ago, failed to pressure Giants quarterback Eli Manning, whiffed on important tackles and allowed New York to continually convert on third and long.
Hanging over the entire locker room this week is Zorn's concern about the team's lack of discipline at Giants Stadium, where the penalties were few but costly.
"I think our challenge was to become more disciplined on the field," Zorn said after the game. "That's going to be our challenge from Week 1 to Week 2."
But reconciling the team's physical nature with Zorn's disciplined and controlled ideals is no easy task.
"That's how we play -- physical, tough ball," said cornerback Carlos Rogers, who was cited for illegal contact in the fourth quarter against the Giants. "Excuse my language; we just not going to be no punks."
In the first half, safety LaRon Landry was called for a personal foul for a late hit on Giants' running back Brandon Jacobs, and shortly after, Moss got into a scuffle with cornerback Corey Webster, exchanging blows and personal foul penalties.
"Whatever happened when it took place, that happened. After it was over with, it should've been over," Moss said Monday. "And that's what I did. I left it where it was at."
That's exactly what Zorn wants to hear. When the team has mental lapses or emotions run high, the coach wants players to think of the team first. "I'm hoping to be able to show our football team how walking away from something like that is better for us than entering into it," he said.
Of the Landry hit, Zorn said when he reviewed tape, Landry appeared to be screened by a teammate and didn't realize Jacobs was on the sideline.
"I didn't think it was blatant disregard for the sideline or the rules," Zorn said.
The personal foul moved the Giants from the Redskins 24-yard line to the 12, and Jacobs told reporters after the game that Landry "should have been smarter."
It's a balancing act for some players, who want to exert dominance and toughness on every down. "At the same time, you want to help your team, but you don't want to show no team that you're a punk and you're going to just lay down for anything they going to do," Rogers said.
Though the Redskins gave up only 32 yards on four penalties, coaches are paying close attention early in the season to discern the team's character. They'll see Sunday against the Rams how the team rebounds from a loss, but they liked that the Redskins shook off a 17-0 first-half deficit against New York and kept the score close for most of the second half.
"It wasn't a lack of effort," said wide receiver Antwaan Randle El, whose 98 yards on seven receptions was among the team's few bright spots on offense. "It wasn't a lack of knowing what you have to do. It just came down to those little things when it comes to penalties and couple little decision-making things."
While they'll spend the next few days installing a new game plan for St. Louis, looking to ignite the offense and maximize the defense, players say the first-game mistakes were left in the Meadowlands.
Visibly displeased cornerback DeAngelo Hall answered every question posed after the game Sunday, forced to talk about missed tackles, blown coverages and his 10-yard holding penalty on a punt return. On Monday at Redskins Park, he was ready to return to the playing field and move past an ugly season-opener.
"Those are things we can correct," said Hall. "I don't think those are things that are going to hinder us all season. I don't think we're going to hit a guy out of bounds every game. I don't think we're going to jump offsides every game. I don't think I'm going to get a block in the back every game. So there are definitely things you can get better on and that we will get better on."
While the Redskins have spent much of the previous six weeks saying they've moved beyond last season, they still remember how it started -- a disappointing loss at the New York Giants, followed by a four-game winning streak. With a favorable early-season schedule -- their next five opponents lost their respective season openers by an average of 20 points -- players and coaches will look to respond similarly this season.
"There's definitely corrections that need to be made, that need to be made in a hurry," said center Casey Rabach. "I definitely expect a big leap from Week 1 to Week 2."