A group of leaders on the Washington Redskins‘ offense decided last week they were fed up with failure and done with being embarrassed. They had scored a total of only 20 points in three games. They weren’t even competitive anymore. Enough was enough.
“It was time to fight back,” receiver Jabar Gaffney said.
Inspiring words don’t always result in production on the field. If it were that easy, perhaps the Redskins‘ season wouldn’t have come unhinged weeks ago. But some players Monday attributed the unit’s resurgence in their 27-24 overtime loss against Dallas to the pep talks.
“I think it was long overdue,” fullback Darrel Young said. “It opened up some eyes.”
After Washington’s offense showed a pulse by scoring a season-high 24 points, players trickled into team headquarters Monday morning with a brighter outlook than in recent weeks.
The playoffs almost certainly are out of reach, but the Redskins (3-7) at least restored a measure of confidence that could serve them well over the final six games.
“There is no moral victory column, but it is a building process,” nose tackle Barry Cofield said. “Guys do improve. Teams do improve - win, lose or draw - and sometimes teams take a step back. There’s something to be said for that. If guys focus and continue to prepare and we get on the same page, I think we’ve got a chance to win some games.”
For coach Mike Shanahan, the biggest difference between Sunday’s game and other losses during the Redskins‘ six-game losing streak was their response to adversity.
Tight end Fred Davis fumbled on Washington’s first drive, and the Cowboys turned it into a 7-0 lead three plays later. The Redskins‘ next four possessions ended in punts, a familiar outcome during their recent slump.
“You understand that when things don’t go right, you don’t panic,” Shanahan said. “You just kind of relax, guys get together, everybody does their job. We didn’t have that in the first quarter so I was wondering what direction we were going to go.
“I was pleased with the way they kept their poise and the way they worked, and they were able to come up with some big plays and some big drives late in the game.”
Grossman was a driving force. His 65.8 completion percentage was his best since he completed 71.4 percent of his passes in Super Bowl XLI on Feb. 4, 2007.
“He just had that confidence,” Gaffney said. “He had that look in his eye that he was just ready to go. We definitely pick up on it and feed off of it.”
It continued an emotional boost that began the night before. Young cited speakers who exuded confidence and stressed cohesion.
“Just let it go and play for yourselves now,” he recalled. “Play together, but know that the person next to you is going to be playing hard, so you don’t want to let that person down.”
Whether the message’s effect lasts into this Sunday’s game at Seattle and beyond is unknown. For now, at least, the tone inside team headquarters has changed.
A week ago, Cofield openly discussed the possibility of the season becoming “historically ugly.”
“As depressed as I was last week, I’m optimistic this week out of some of the things that we did,” he said. “Offensively, we played great, in my opinion. They gave us a chance to win. Defensively, I know we’ve got the guys that will respond, and we won’t let those guys down next week.”