RG3 takes the blame
GREEN BAY – Since 1990, NFL teams that have opened the season 0-2 only made the playoffs 11.6-percent of the time.
And those, of course, are the long odds the reigning NFC East champion Redskins face following their miscue-riddled defeat Sunday at Lambeau Field, where Aaron Rodgers and the Packers raced out to a 31-0 lead and never looked back.
It’s a daunting statistic. But many Redskins’ veterans quietly asked for the benefit of the doubt on their way out of the stunned visitor’s locker room here. After all, they said, adversity is nothing new for this group.
“We can’t afford to get down on ourselves,” Trent Williams said. “We have a guaranteed 14 more games. We lost six games last year. We’re not at a place we haven’t been before. We can face adversity. We’ve been here.”
Indeed, they have. And it wasn’t long ago. Last season, Williams and his teammates stumbled into the bye week a wretched 3-6. A fifth consecutive playoff-less season seemed all but a certainty. After a listless home loss to the Panthers, Coach Mike Shanahan challenged his players, saying, “You lose a game like that, now you’re playing to see who obviously is going to be on your football for years to come.”
His words elicited precisely the type of response he hoped they would. The Redskins regrouped and reeled off seven straight victories.
On Sunday, though, he tried the opposite approach.
“Coach Shanahan brought us [into the locker room] and it wasn’t a bunch of bad words and woe-is-me,” defensive captain Barry Cofield said. “He has faith in us, and when your leader backs you like that, it gives you a lot of confidence.”
Cofield added: “It’s not a lack of preparation or effort, it’s just a lack of execution. When you work your butt off all week and come in and perform like this, it’s depressing. But [Shanahan’s positive remarks] gave us a glimmer of hope, it made you want to come in a get to work tomorrow instead of going and hiding your head in the sand.”
Will Shanahan’s reassurance work?
We won’t have to wait long to find out. Next Sunday the Redskins host Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson and the 1-1 Lions, who blew a fourth quarter lead Sunday in Arizona.
It’s as close to a ‘must-win’ game for the Redskins as any NFL team can have in September.
And they’ve got six days to sort out a multitude of issues.
The Robert Griffin III-led offense has scored exactly 0 first half points this season. On defense, only the 1967 Atlanta Falcons have yielded more total yards than the Redskins’ 1,023 through two games.
But as poorly as the opening weeks have gone, there’s been no finger pointing in the Redskins’ locker room. Instead, the team’s leaders seem to be following Shanahan’s cup-half-full lead.
“I feel good about the potential of our football team,” Shanahan said. “We’re 0-2. I think everybody knows the percentages, just like everybody knew the percentages last year when we were 3-6.”
“It’s going to take everybody getting on the same page, our timing, to get where we want to get,” he said. “Like I said, you can’t overreact. But you know there is a sense of urgency.”
Brian Orakpo said he’s confident the Redskins will turn things around because the majority of the starters who led last season’s improbable charge into the playoffs are starters now.
“We’re frustrated right now, but we’re not throwing in the towel,” Orakpo said. “We did this [mess] last year. We have the same nucleus. We’re going to be fine.”
Said wide receiver Pierre Garçon: “We definitely can get out of it. It’s not unfamiliar territory that we’re in. We have a lot of good players in here who will compete. We just have to prepare better and start off fast. I guess we have to think that we’re down when we start the game."
Williams added that it’s minute details, not something major like the league catching up to the Redskins’ offense that has them struggling.
“We’re not too far off,” he said. “Just a little play here or there to keep the drive going. And if we can keep drives going we can put points on the board. But we definitely came out flat, again, which is disappointing.”
The numbers don’t look good for the Redskins. But they didn’t look good for the other 22 (out of 190 teams) that climbed out of an 0-2 hole over the past 24 years, either
The Redskins still believe they can be No. 23.
It’s a long shot. But hey, it’s something.