Mental miscues plague winless Redskins

Mental miscues plague winless Redskins
September 22, 2013, 7:30 pm
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RG3 on his fumble: It's a sucky rule, but it's a rule

(Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

The overarching theme in the Redskins’ locker room Sunday was that they had played well enough to win but were ultimately undone by self-inflicted wounds.

And, indeed, nothing could be truer.

Dropped passes. Turnovers. Penalties.

It all added up to a season-threatening 27-20 loss to the Lions, who claimed their first victory in Washington (1-21). The Redskins, meantime, now face a daunting task. Since 1990, only three of the 115 teams that opened the season 0-3 rebounded to make the playoffs.

“We had the opportunity to do it, get it done,” Coach Mike Shanahan lamented. “But you can’t make the mistakes that we made and expect to win.”

The potential go-ahead touchdown pass that Aldrick Robinson did not secure certainly hurt the Redskins' chances. More damaging, though, were the drive-stalling and drive-extending penalties that seemed to occur at the most inopportune times.

A couple really stand out.

In the first quarter, the Redskins were gifted a touchdown when DeAngelo Hall intercepted Matt Stafford and returned the ball for a touchdown. But instead of building on that momentum, they gave it right back.

On the Lions’ ensuing drive, linebacker Perry Riley was flagged for roughing the passer. Then, three players later, defensive captain London Fletcher was penalized for holding, turning a third and six into an automatic first down. Joique Bell scored a touchdown three plays after that to knot the score at 7.

When your defense ranks last in yards allowed, giving away freebies is totally unacceptable. 

“It was better today, but it wasn’t good enough,” said Fletcher, who was spelled at times by backup Nick Barnett. “Collectively, we made too many mistakes today.”

There were ill-timed penalties on offense, too.

With the score tied 17-17 in the third quarter, guard Chris Chester was flagged for a false start. A manageable third and six became a difficult third and 11. Two plays later, the Redskins punted.

Washington was the NFL’s seventh most penalized team entering the game.

“It’s very frustrating,” fullback Darrel Young said of the penalties. “The coaching staff preaches about it. But we have to go out and do it.”

He added: “These three games, the penalties have been killing us. Regardless of the fumble and interception, penalties kill drives. We have to show more discipline. It’s nothing the coaches can do. We can’t keep coming back and saying the same thing every week.”

Entering Sunday, the Redskins had also committed the seventh most turnovers in the league, having given the ball away four times. Now they’re sure to slide further down that list after an uncharacteristically mistake-prone effort Robert Griffin III, who recorded a rare double—he lost a fumble and threw an interception.

Griffin now has four interceptions in three games. He had five all of last season.

“Another play where you make it, it’s a great play,” Griffin said. “But if you don’t, it’s a bad play. And it was a bad play.”

Griffin had two options there: take the sack or throw it into the stands. He incorrectly chose none of the above.

The fumble, however, was much more costly.

With the score tied 17-17 in the fourth quarter, Griffin sprinted 21-yards up field to the Lions’ 29. It was his longest run of the season and it should have put the Redskins in position to earn some points. Just one problem. He lost the ball when he attempted to slide stomach first.

Griffin has now played 20 games in the NFL. It’s about time he learned how to slide.

On the Lions’ next drive, they seized a 20-17 lead they would not relinquish.

“On [that run], I went face first because they were a little further away,” Griffin explained. “You can’t really be out there thinking about that kind of stuff.”

Added Shanahan: “Next time, he’ll do a normal slide instead of going headfirst. It’s a little bit tougher when you don’t practice [sliding headfirst].”

It wasn’t one player’s mistakes. It wasn’t one penalty or even one turnover that lost the game. When added up, though, the combination of mental miscues simply were too much for the Redskins to overcome.

The question now is whether the hole they’ve dug will prove to be too deep, even for a team that climbed out of a 3-6 deficit a year ago.

“I know a lot of people will be down—and rightfully so,” Shanahan said. “Anytime you start 0-3, that’s as tough as it gets. Those guys worked extremely hard to put us in a position to win and we didn’t get it done.”

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