CARSON, Calif. — The final score makes it difficult to believe, but the Washington Redskins had an opportunity to make it a game. But the Los Angeles Chargers countered Washington's big moments with bigger ones of their own, as the Redskins' opponents often have this season.
Through their inconsistent play, the Redskins have consistently failed to seize momentum. It wasn't any different Sunday during a 30-13 blowout loss at StubHub Center.
"That's been the story right now," Redskins Coach Jay Gruden said. "As soon as we make a big play, they answer with a bigger play and we can't get the momentum back."
Washington had a dreadful first quarter, falling behind 13-0 as its offense had just six plays and a turnover while its defense allowed 153 total yards. Still, a window opened in the second quarter that could have allowed the Redskins to make things competitive.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins rebounded after throwing an interception to get the Redskins on the board, scrambling out of the pocket to find an open Vernon Davis for a 23-yard touchdown pass and make it a one-score game.
The optimism gained from a touchdown drive quickly wore off. Place kicker Nick Rose's extra point attempt bounced off the left upright. It was his second PAT miss in 19 tries since he joined the team in Week 7.
After the kickoff resulted in a touchback, the Chargers then scored on the first play of the ensuing drive. Philip Rivers connected on a 75-yard touchdown pass with Chargers wide receiver Tyrell Williams, who beat Redskins cornerback Josh Norman on the deep ball.
"I'm not going to throw anybody under the bus; I'll take the blame for everything that happened today," Norman said. "I take full responsibility for all of it. I'll put it on my shoulders and [I'm] going to carry it for [us]. Don't blame anybody else. Don't blame the safeties. Don't blame the other guys. Put it all on me. My shoulders are broad. I can carry it. We've just got to get better as a whole. Right now, we're not."
Los Angeles stretched its lead back to two scores, 20-6. The Redskins were defeated decisively on the road for the second straight week.
"This game is about momentum, and we had it for about four seconds," Gruden said.
Washington's offense didn't score the rest of the game, or even sniff the red zone. On its next drive, Cousins couldn't connect with Davis on a fourth-down attempt. The play had the potential for a touchdown, with Davis wide open down the field, but the pass landed just outside of Davis's outstretched hands.
Washington's next seven drives ended with a punt.
"I will say that I believe we have a small margin for error," said Cousins, who was 15 of 27 for 151 yards with a touchdown and an interception. "I think that when you do miss a throw by inches or when you don't hit the completion and you have to punt, it does usually come back to hurt us because of some of the injuries. We just don't have a lot of room to make a mistake here or there and then still be right there in the fourth quarter. Usually, if we have something happen to us, it can slip away, maybe more quickly than we would want. Or maybe more quickly than it would have the first couple of weeks in the season.
"You miss that throw [to Davis], and then suddenly the game gets away from you. And I think that's where I'm talking about the margin for error. You miss it by an inch, and then suddenly you feel like the whole day went south."
Momentum has been difficult for the Redskins to obtain over the last month, whether that's because of a smaller margin for error because of injuries, or the inability to properly prepare during the second half of the season, as safety D.J. Swearinger has often stated and repeated once again after this loss. In a Week 10 loss to the Minnesota Vikings, Washington allowed consecutive touchdowns in the final two minutes of the first half and had a three-point lead turn into an 11-point deficit at halftime. The following week, the Redskins surrendered a 15-point lead in the final 5:58 against the New Orleans Saints before losing in overtime.
Last week, the Redskins couldn't overcome a 17-0 deficit in the second quarter against the Dallas Cowboys. And now, against the Chargers, an early deficit doomed them again.
All four games resulted in losses, and the Redskins can now finish no better than 8-8 in a season that is unraveling with three games left. Next week brings a matchup with the 6-7 Arizona Cardinals.
"I feel like we've been doing that all year for some reason," safety D.J. Swearinger said. "Whether it's a lack of focus or a lack of attention to detail, whatever it is, we've got to fix it and move forward. We've got to get a win against Arizona."