PHILADELPHIA — So much felt familiar.
The same mistakes. The same excuses. The same cliches. The same result.
Any delusion the Redskins’ season of disappointment can be salvaged disappeared during Sunday afternoon’s 24-16 loss to the Eagles.
Six games remain on the schedule, but, in actuality, the season is finished.
Forget about the fourth-quarter rally that kept flickering hopes alive until Robert Griffin III’s ill-advised pass was intercepted in the end zone with 32 seconds remaining. That’s just one more tease in a season crammed with them.
The reality in the thick air of the visitor’s locker room’s at Lincoln Financial Field is a 3-7 football team with no answers. No longer could they hide behind hollow boasts about repeating the seven-game win streak to save last season or similar hot air that labelled each win this season a turning point.
Metal lockers slammed. A tray of oranges sat uneaten.
“I just don’t understand,” DeAngelo Hall said, “where it’s falling apart.”
That bafflement, too, is familiar.
Instead of answers, they talked about the team’s tight-knit atmosphere. How they kept fighting. How they didn’t give up. How they’re still confident. All the tired, empty phrases losing teams trot out that make for pleasant sound bytes and don’t mean anything.
Instead of answers, Trent Williams accused a game official of directing a stream of obscenities at him. After last week’s loss to the Vikings in Minneapolis, multiple players complained about the referees, too.
Never mind that the Redskins were flagged for only four penalties Sunday. Never mind, too, that Williams’ angry words sidestepped the festering issue of Griffin’s protection. The Eagles contacted the quarterback to the turf 13 times, including four sacks and repeated shots that hurt to watch.
Griffin’s frequent scrambles for his life helped to neuter any attempt to throw the ball in the first half against the NFL’s second-worst pass defense. The Redskins managed four net yards passing in the half. Yes, four.
Yet Williams complained about officiating.
Instead of answers, Griffin barked at officials after a failed drive in the third quarter and waved his arms as he pleaded for a flag on another play.
Instead of answers, Brian Orakpo performed his post-sack dance after pulling down Eagles quarterback Nick Foles in the second quarter. Orakpo’s team trailed 24-0. Yet he danced.
This, for better or (mostly) worse, is Redskins football.
In a small room near the locker room, Mike Shanahan gripped the sides of a podium and directed his piercing gaze at the dirty gray carpet. The coach didn’t make eye contact as he answered questions. An untouched bottle of water rested next to his right hand.
Shanahan’s words were familiar, too. We’ve heard this press conference. We’ve read these explanations from the coach in the fourth season of a five-year contract. Take your pick of this season’s debacles and the post-mortem is the same.
They had a great week of practice. When haven’t they?
They want to keep improving. Did the flurry of missed tackles — even taking the easy path to blame LeSean McCoy’s shifty running — look like improvement? Did the special teams errors — like new return man Nick Williams muffing one punt and allowing another to go before it stopped after 70 yards — look like improvement?
They need to play a full 60 minutes. Why is that game-long focus still a problem two and a half months into the season with the NFL’s second-oldest 53-man roster?
They kept competing. They fought hard. They almost pulled the game out. They didn’t take advantage of opportunities.
Throw out all the cliches you want. Shanahan did. They can’t obscure the ugly result against the mediocre Eagles and their former backup quarterback who looked more like an All-Pro against the Redskins. They can’t obscure that sport’s ultimate measure, wins and losses, says the Redskins aren’t close to as good of football team as they may think.
Sure, the Griffin-directed comeback with the 16-point fourth quarter will be held up as the latest sign that better days are ahead, that, somehow, one of these days the Redskins will step onto the field and — poof! — be transformed into an upper-division football team.
Instead, the futile quests for answers, the justifications, the promises that better days are just around the corner are as much the fabric of losing teams as missed tackles and pointing the finger at officials. All they did was to reinforce how far removed this team is from success.
The schedule doesn’t ease up. The postseason hopes and hype are a long-ago joke. The question left unanswered in the locker room is how bad this will get as the familiar story continues.