See a pattern here? I do. Two division rivals, who barely noticed the Redskins were on their schedule, woke up when they got behind, grabbed the Redskins by the throat, smacked them around, outcoached them by miles at halftime and named the score. Washington dink-and-dunked its way to a meaningless late score to save face — a little.
The offensive line, without alienated holdout tackle Trent Williams, can’t open a hole for anybody. Derrius Guice gained 18 yards last week against the Eagles and was injured. Adrian Peterson gained 25 yards against the Cowboys. That is as bad of back-to-back rushing games as this franchise has ever seen.
Now we know that neither a young prospect nor an aging Hall of Famer can gain much more than a body’s length per carry behind this group. But the line still had its weekly pair of holding penalties.
The Redskins will tell you, even after their second straight loss Sunday, that they are a good team, a playoff contender and, just you watch, once they get a few glitches cleaned up and some injured players return, they will be a force, and your eyes will be glued to them.
“We [only] played two games, and [we’ve] got to keep [issues] in-house and stay together. A lot of people are going to try to tear us apart . . . and deservedly so, probably,” Coach Jay Gruden said. “But we’ve played two very good football teams. . . . We have a young team that’s going to develop and grow. We need veterans to step up and take this team by the throat. I think it will happen. I still feel very optimistic about the future of this football team.”
Gruden also mentioned, but did not emphasize, that his team was without four core players — tight end Jordan Reed, defensive tackle Jonathan Allen and a pair of cornerbacks — not to mention Williams, the best player on the team.
“I don’t think we need to hit the panic button yet,” Gruden said.
This Redskins team should not have a panic button to start with — it’s not good enough to have one. Panic buttons are for playoff contenders who fail to deliver. They are not for teams that lost a good starting quarterback last year in Alex Smith and replaced him with a lesser, placeholder passer in likable Case Keenum. Panic buttons are not for teams that should be patient in developing a promising rookie quarterback such as Dwayne Haskins.
For heaven’s sake, who would press the panic button just because astronomically paid Josh Norman was beaten on a 51-yard touchdown bomb down the middle Sunday? Opponents have been picking on Norman for two years. He goes along with the Daniel Snyder-world drill that he’s a star in an inexplicable slump.
In some alternate universe, the Redskins are a team that is just waiting to get healthy and get hot.
Reality check: That’s not happening.
This team knew it wasn’t built to play from behind. Now we see it can’t play from ahead. This team knew it wasn’t built to win if it lost the turnover battle. Now it hasn’t committed a single turnover in its first two games and is winless. Washington even got an interception against Dallas. What happens to this team when it has an NFL-normal number of turnovers? What happens when it gets behind early?
The kindest thing you can do for this team is lower the expectations that surround it. The coaches and players have to say all the usual upbeat things — doubly so with the brass listening. One rookie, leave him nameless, said: “We have 14 games left. Maybe we run the table!”
The NFL puts out a schedule of all games every year. You’re allowed to look at it ahead of time. The schedule I’m looking at says the Redskins will be fortunate to win two games out of the seven they have remaining with true contenders: the Chicago Bears (next Monday night), New England Patriots, San Francisco 49ers and Eagles at FedEx Field, plus the Minnesota Vikings, Green Bay Packers and Cowboys on the road.
A couple of ex-Redskins have issues to settle in those games, too: The 49ers are coached by Kyle Shanahan, and quarterback Kirk Cousins will be waiting in Minneapolis.
Aside from the tanking Miami Dolphins, Washington has no game in which it will be more than a tiny favorite. Maybe the Redskins will split their six games with the New York Giants (home and away), New York Jets, Buffalo Bills, Detroit Lions and Carolina Panthers.
That’s five or six wins. It’s what pundits nationwide have said, except those who said, “Three or four.”
Of course, huge numbers of Washington fans already know this and have been factoring it into their thinking — and game-day habits. On a glorious, warm afternoon, FedEx Field had its usual thousands of empty seats, but thanks to Cowboys fans who made up perhaps 35 percent of the house, there was plenty of noise.
“[The Cowboys] had a lot of fans out there. . . . They definitely brought the house,” second-year defensive lineman Tim Settle said. “It’s hard. Guys go down. We have a lot of young guys. We have to stay strong. It’s part of the game. . . . Keep pushing. Stay by each other’s side. We got time.”
That is probably the right attitude for this team — realistic and patient, waiting for progress. But when has this franchise ever been realistic and patient? Every time Gruden or a veteran player cites an honest, obvious reason something went wrong, they immediately add: “That’s no excuse. We have to play better.”
Better than they are capable of playing? That’s a lot to ask.
As the weather turns colder and the Redskins’ record probably gets quite chilly, lots of decisions will be made by fans on whether this team is worth their time and affection.
On Sunday morning, I explained this dilemma to my wife, using Williams as an illustration. The fans are like Williams, I said. They dislike the way the team is run so much that they don’t want to have anything to do with it. Williams is refusing to play to force a trade. Fans would rather do their gardening than go to games or watch on TV.
“Don’t malign gardening,” she said.