An opening-night flop used to rattle the Washington Redskins, who weren’t capable of overcoming setbacks and embraced excuses. But in rebounding from a 3-6 start to win the NFC East last season, the team showed a resilience that indicates Monday’s ugly 33-27 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles might not have long-term ramifications.
In the fast-paced NFL, there’s no time to focus on the past. With another difficult test Sunday in Green Bay, the Redskins face the daunting prospect of starting 0-2 in a season with high expectations, but if they’re burdened by worry, they’re not showing it.
Having a short work week after Monday’s opener meant the Redskins had to regroup even faster than usual. It helped that they maintained their cool following an across-the-board clunker.
No team leaders have expressed concern about the squad’s psyche. Coaches haven’t held individual meetings designed to boost the players’ confidence. That rally-the-troops stuff wasn’t necessary. For the Redskins, the only thing that changed after Week 1 is “now we’re not going undefeated,” Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams said, the sarcasm evident in his tone. “Did we want to lose? No. But we know what type of team we have. We look at [the loss] for what it is: one round in a 16-round fight.”
Round 2 figures to be a doozy. Green Bay opened the season with a 34-28 road loss at San Francisco.
The Packers have lost twice in their past 23 games at Lambeau Field. Talk about a home-field advantage. Veteran linebacker London Fletcher summed up the situation, “You can say playing there is a challenge.”
The Redskins haven’t exactly been road warriors on trips to Wisconsin; they’re an uninspiring 5-10-1 in Green Bay. Robert Griffin III was 1 year old the last time the Redskins won in the Packers’ stadium.
And Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is as good as it gets at the game’s most important position.
In the loss to the 49ers, Rodgers passed for 333 yards and three touchdowns.
This Sunday, Rodgers will be facing a retooled secondary that whiffed in its first opportunity to show it’s not as bad as last season’s crew. Against the Eagles, the Redskins’ coverage was almost as bad as their tackling, so facing a passer with a 65.6-percent career completion rate isn’t the easiest path to recovery.
Recently, though, the Redskins have been just fine doing things the hard way.
Washington closed last season on a seven-game winning streak and won its first division title in 13 years. During the run, the Redskins proved they had the mental strength of champions, “and guys don’t forget that,” veteran wide receiver Santana Moss said.
“When you’ve been in this league awhile [Moss is beginning his 13th season], man, you see everything is a test. Every day you challenged with something. . . . Guys prove what they are [on the field]. When you look around [the locker room] now, you see a lot of guys who have that belief because they’ve gone out and done it.”
That makes sense to Coach Mike Shanahan, who wasn’t dwelling on his team’s standing in the NFC after one week.
“If you have a team that believes in itself, which I know that they do, you don’t spend time on those things,” Shanahan said. “They proved [they’re capable] last year. When you know who you are, you look at the film, you correct the mistakes and you move on.”
Yes, there’s plenty to correct, but Washington’s offense, which was top shelf in 2012, was uncharacteristically out of whack against Philadelphia. The Redskins won’t have two turnovers and a safety in their first seven plays again. And the defense was facing an unfamiliar concept in the Eagles’ fast-break offense; the Redskins are more familiar with how the Packers roll.
Redskins critics would paint a darker picture. They would say the trouble in the opener is a bad sign for the season. Shanahan would counter with a story about his 2005 Denver Broncos.
The Miami Dolphins routed the Broncos by 24 points in that season opener. Questions followed about whether the Broncos were headed toward a last-place finish. “You want to talk about a bad opener . . . we got killed,” Shanahan remembered. He also quickly recalled the Broncos’ record that season: 13-3.
“It was one game,” Shanahan said. “We went on to have a good season.”
Shanahan is counting on the Redskins being able to pull off something similar: making adjustments, toughening up and playing better. From what we saw last season, they’re starting to get good at it.
For previous Jason Reid columns, go to washingtonpost.com/reid.