The worst part, Barry Cofield said, is that the Washington Redskins have to show up at on Monday morning and pretend everything is all right.
A 24-17 loss to the New York Giants at FedEx Field on Sunday night left the Redskins with a reality they had been staring down for several weeks: They are no longer eligible for the postseason, left home again in January, and for the next four weeks they will wind down a season without aim or answer.
"When you lose nine out of 12 games, you're not getting it done, so we've got to look at ourselves, come to work every day, prepare, try to get better and win the next one, because that's our job," said Cofield, the Redskins' nose tackle. "It doesn't matter, playoffs or not, what carrot is dangling in front of you. It's your job to come in and work hard and play your best every week, and that's what we've got to do."
How the Redskins (3-9) arrived at such a point Sunday night, when lockers were being cleaned out quickly and tempers were resigned, was a ride in itself. In the first quarter, it appeared last year's incarnation had taken the field – the efficient offense, the stingy defense, advantageous special teams play.
Quarterback Robert Griffin III completed all but one of his 17 pass attempts in the first half, including each of his first 12, and kept the Giants' defense off balance by running the ball seven times. He trusted his receivers to catch passes and make plays, and they did. The ground attack was slow to get going, but it was the focus of the Giants' defensive effort. The Redskins' defense allowed only five yards in the first 15 minutes.
It was a mirage. The Redskins returned to their recent form late in the second quarter, allowing a pair of touchdowns in the final nine minutes to wipe out that lead, their largest of the season.
The second half was even worse. Griffin appeared flustered, trying to do too much. His protection was porous. His receivers dropped passes. Reckless penalties, such as one on wide receiver Santana Moss for bumping an official and one on wide receiver Pierre Garçon for kicking a dropped ball in the end zone, set Washington back even further.
"We had a couple good drives in there, and you have to maintain [them]," coach Mike Shanahan said. "You can't stop yourselves. We had some penalties. We had some dropped balls. We had a couple of missed assignments. You combine all those things, and that's how you lose a football game."
The Redskins, who had 227 yards in the first half, finished with 322. Griffin completed eight of 15 passes after halftime, ending up with 207 yards. He was sacked five times in the second half, including four by Giants defensive end Justin Tuck, and in one span of four plays over two series, he was dropped by Tuck three times.
"When we were 14-0, we needed to do something drastic," Tuck said. "Luckily for us, our offense went out and got some points and that got us off the field for a little bit. We got our wind back, and we were able to make the adjustments needed to get over hard times from thereforth."
Eli Manning completed 22 of 28 passes for 235 yards and a touchdown for the Giants (5-7), but also threw an interception, his 15th, to Redskins free safety Brandon Meriweather in the third quarter.
Even on that drive, when the Redskins began with the ball at the Giants' 12-yard line, they lost three yards and were held to a field goal. On the final possession, with 2:32 remaining, the Redskins went 31 yards but turned the ball over when Garçon had it ripped out of his hands by Giants free safety Will Hill.
So went with it were the Redskins' hopes. Now, for the final four games, they'll have to find out what they're made of.
"That's what they pay you for," Cofield said. "They pay you to get beat up and come back. They pay you to weather the storm and to take criticism and be in pain and injured and show up the next day and play your best and work your hardest. As professionals, you've got to dig deep, look inside and realize that's your job."
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