The Washington Redskins did their best to take an upbeat approach the day after they squandered a 21-point, fourth-quarter lead in losing their regular season opener -- and their first game under new owner Daniel M. Snyder -- to the Dallas Cowboys.
No coaches were dismissed and no players were released or demoted as the team returned to work yesterday at Redskin Park. Snyder and Coach Norv Turner reiterated that they believe the team will right itself without major changes, and the coach and his players tried to turn their focus to Sunday's road game against the New York Giants.
"It's all right," Snyder said. "Now we'll see how tough we are."
Turner expressed his support for defensive coordinator Mike Nolan and said: "This is about as difficult a loss as I've been involved in. [But] I think a lot of good will come out of it. Our team will be ready to go play in New York."
The Redskins had no answers in the fourth quarter Sunday as the Cowboys tied the score in regulation, then escaped with a 41-35 triumph on quarterback Troy Aikman's 76-yard touchdown pass in overtime to Raghib Ismail. Turner indicated that punter Matt Turk will continue to serve as the holder for place kicker Brett Conway, even after Turk mishandled a snap and prevented Conway from attempting a 41-yard field goal in the closing moments of regulation.
The players participated in a light practice yesterday, then had film sessions and meetings. They conceded that Sunday's collapse will be difficult to forget, but insisted that they'll move on and be ready for road games at Giants Stadium against the Giants and the New York Jets the next two weeks.
"It still feels bad," linebacker Greg Jones said. "I'm still in shock. Everyone is. Everyone is saying, `So I'm not the only one.' . . . We just have to win. We had a chance [Sunday]. We let it go away. We can't let it happen again."
Middle linebacker Derek Smith said he woke up at 3 a.m., and tossed and turned until 6.
"It's a sick feeling, to let a game slip away like that," he said. "We had the game won, and to let it slip away really hurts. It's going to stick in your head, but you can't let it. You have to go on to the next game. I'm tired of not winning."
A deflating road loss to the Giants put the Redskins on their way to an 0-7 start last season. They insist there won't be a repeat this year.
"People are thinking about it now, but it's not going to be like last year," Jones said. "We're not going to go 0-7. It's not going to happen. It's just not. We know what it feels like. We know we're better than that. It's a different attitude. We're not going to let that happen again."
Turk said: "We're going to focus on the Giants and not let it ruin our season. . . . We can't let this game stand in the way of what we do against the Giants and any game thereafter. I think we can still end up having a really special season."
Players were quick to accept the blame for their failings Sunday. Reserve safety Matt Stevens, who fell for Aikman's play-action fake to running back Emmitt Smith and watched Ismail sail past him on the winning play, said he couldn't blame Snyder or Turner if they had pointed a finger at him.
"I saw the receiver run by me," Stevens said. "I said, `I just lost the game.' . . . If they want to single me out, they can single me out. I messed up."
Sources said that Snyder remains supportive of Turner and his coaching staff. But scrutiny of Nolan and special teams coach LeCharls McDaniel could intensify if their units continue to struggle. The Cowboys recovered an onside kick during the Redskins' mistake-filled fourth quarter. The offense stalled, and the Redskins were plagued by penalties on defense.
Turner said during his weekly news conference yesterday he "absolutely" remains confident in Nolan, and he indicated he still thinks the Redskins will be a fine defensive team this season.
"Everyone wants to snap to a judgment after one game," Turner said. ". . . I'm certainly not pleased with the way we played in some areas of the defense. But we'll be a good defensive football team."
The Redskins were able to pull some positives out of the defeat. Cornerback Champ Bailey overcame a sluggish beginning to play well in his NFL debut before suffering leg cramps late in the game. Quarterback Brad Johnson, running back Stephen Davis and wide receivers Michael Westbrook and Albert Connell had career-best yardage days, giving the Redskins a 300-yard passer, a 100-yard runner and two 100-yard receivers in the same game for only the third time in team history. The offensive line played well.
"The loss is difficult," Turner said. "You can't minimize that. But there are a lot of individuals who played at a high level for a long period of time."
The Giants offense doesn't present the same problems that Aikman, Smith and Michael Irvin did. New York managed only four first downs Sunday but got two touchdowns from the defense to beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 17-13. The look of the Jets game Sept. 26 also changed when the Jets lost quarterback Vinny Testaverde for the season with a ruptured Achilles' tendon.
Turner said: "We'll have an excellent week of practice. Our guys have worked awfully hard. Our players have made an unbelievable commitment to get ready for the season. They've paid a heck of a price, and that won't end because of one game. We have a committed group, and they'll respond."
Redskins Notes: Team officials worked out former Arizona Cardinals linebacker Tony McCombs yesterday at Redskin Park. McCombs, 25, played 27 games for the Cardinals the previous two seasons, and made 13 starts last year. But the Redskins didn't sign McCombs, and he headed to Cleveland last night to work out for the Browns.