The Washington Redskins say, virtually to a man, that Sunday's loss to the Dallas Cowboys was the toughest they have experienced. But they also say they have rebounded to have a good week of practices, even with the wet field conditions at Redskin Park the past two days, and they insist they won't let a Cowboys hangover affect the way they play on the road Sunday against the New York Giants.
"There's nothing you can do about that game any more," running back and kick returner Brian Mitchell said yesterday. "It left a bad taste in everyone's mouths, but guys are trying to focus on the Giants. Professional athletes probably have the shortest memories there are. You have to. For me, once a game is over, that's it.
"I think we've gotten past it. We're waiting for another opportunity to prove ourselves. You're always going to know you let one slip away, but you move on to the next one."
The Redskins squandered a 35-14 fourth-quarter lead Sunday and lost, 41-35, in overtime. Mitchell called it his toughest loss, more difficult even than a 24-21 defeat to the Cowboys in 1991 after the Redskins had begun the season 11-0.
"I knew that game [Sunday] was ours," Mitchell, who is in his 10th season with the Redskins. "It leaves a bitter taste, but we can't let it affect the way we play against the Giants."
Offensive tackle Andy Heck, in his first season with the Redskins after five seasons with the Seattle Seahawks and five more with the Chicago Bears, also called it his toughest loss in the NFL.
"I haven't played in a lot of huge games in the NFL," he said. "There were a lot of factors that made that a huge game. I really wanted that one. . . . Wins are so hard to come by in this league. You don't want to give it away when you have one.
"It's tough when you feel like you have a game won and then don't win it. You want to put it behind you, but there are some things you don't want to let go of. You don't want to let go of the hurt. . . . The best way to get over that one is to win Sunday."
Since training camp, the Redskins have struggled with how to keep both their pass-catching running backs, Mitchell and Larry Centers, involved in the offense. Centers had six catches in the season opener, while Mitchell had none. But Mitchell said he isn't worried yet.
"In third downs and a lot of situations, I was in there and Larry wasn't," he said. "Larry caught a lot of balls on first and second downs. Brad [Johnson, the Redskins' quarterback] went another direction with the ball when I was in there. That's the way the game goes. As time goes on, I think I'll be able to do some things. As long as we start winning, that's all I'm worried about." . . .
Place kicker Brett Conway had two game-winning field goals during his senior season at Penn State. He had a chance for his first game-winner in the NFL Sunday, but never got to try the 41-yarder in the closing moments of regulation because holder Matt Turk mishandled the snap.
"It was disappointing," Conway said yesterday. "I felt real focused and real confident. It obviously never should have come down to that, but I was ready."