A scant month ago, the locker room at Redskins Park was a bastion of harmony and confidence and determination that these 53 players were different, somehow immune to the tumult and letdowns of past teams.
But Stephen Bowen arrived Monday after a night spent turning and tossing instead of sleeping. How, the defensive end wondered, could the Washington Redskins fix the problems that now litter the locker room like the dirty socks and wads of athletic tape usually present?
Bowen's sleepless night didn't produce any answers.
"Everyone has to be accountable for what's going on," Bowen said, searching for words to explain what, exactly, unraveled. "Something's not going right."
A day after the Redskins' 23-0 loss to the Buffalo Bills — Washington's third straight defeat — questions piled high without clear answers. No rants or stern words here. No one seemed to know how the once-promising season went so wrong or what, if anything, could be done to redeem it.
"We're just not showing up on gameday," linebacker Lorenzo Alexander said. "It'd be easier to accept it if guys weren't showing up, were coming in late, staying out past curfew. If guys were doing that, then you'd say this is why we're losing. … It's kind of hard when you're doing all the little things right."
The big things, like blocking and tackling and scoring, haven't gone as well.
The numbers from Sunday's comedy of errors in Toronto were ugly, from the 26 rushing yards on 12 carries to the nine times quarterback John Beck was sacked to Mike Shanahan's first shutout in 267 games as a coach.
That a problem existed seemed the only thing the Redskins could agree on. Otherwise, players complimented Kyle Shanahan's offensive playcalls. Insisted they practiced hard. Denied disharmony in the locker room. Believed they were prepared for the Bills. Were confident, even without five injured offensive starters.
But the aftermath was evident in center Erik Cook's guarded voice and weary eyes.
"It's rough going back there and picking your quarterback up off the ground," Cook said. "We knew what they were going to do. I think it was more technical issues than anything."
Some of the sacks were Beck's fault, Shanahan believed, despite playing behind an offensive line missing two injured starters. The coach described Beck's two-interception performance as "a little off."
Receiver Donte Stallworth noted the line has been "kind of out of sync" since tackle Trent Williams and guard Kory Lichtensteiger were injured against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Shanahan left open the possibility of reshuffling the group. One move could shift Will Montgomery from guard to center, where he excelled before Lichtensteiger's season-ending knee injury. But the other options at guard would be Cook, in his second year, or rookie Maurice Hurt, the seventh-round pick recently elevated from the practice squad.
More immediate solutions were limited to talk of accountability, redoubled practice efforts and noting nine games remain in the regular season. In short, the words you'd expect to bounce around a baffled locker room.
"You can't really put your finger on it," linebacker Ryan Kerrigan said. "We just haven't played a complete game the last couple weeks. … It sounds simple, but we've just all got to do our jobs."
Added nose tackle Barry Cofield: "Anything that's not executed on gameday, it's just that individual's fault. … Nothing caught us off guard against [the Bills]."
Cofield's words continued, haunting for hopes of this season ending in the playoffs, no matter how great the change in this year's Redskins Park locker room.
"The good teams," Cofield said, "get better as the season goes on."
© Copyright 2015 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.