Washington Redskins offensive lineman Trent Williams sat in a folding chair in front of his locker at FedEx Field on Sunday, all but whispering responses to questions he could not answer.
Across the room, quarterback Robert Griffin III slumped in his own chair, chatting with a team official while grimly waiting for his postgame press conference where he would face the same task. There are legitimate reasons why the Redskins have started the 2013 season 0-3. But before they can correct the mistakes that have led to this predicament, they first have to deal with the shock that it's happened at all.
"Nobody could have told us that it was going to be like this," cornerback Josh Wilson said Monday. "But this is a test of our team, a test to see if we are who we say we are. Are we a team that's going to never give up, a team of confidence, a team of always going to fight?"
Last year they were. With limited roster changes it was supposed to be that way again.
Instead, a porous defense is on a record-setting pace for yards allowed. An offense that took the NFL by storm last season is still finding its way as Griffin figures out how to shake the rust following a limited offseason thanks to major right knee surgery.
Is this a solid team that should be 1-2? Or is it a bad team that is regressing to its proper place? The Redskins say they have to fight such thoughts.
"In the NFL, good teams do lose games. It happens," wide receiver Pierre Garcon said. "It's about bouncing back. But we never thought we would be 0-3 coming off the offseason we had and the last year we had. We thought it would only get better. We have to deal with it."
Garcon and fellow wide receiver Santana Moss both said they have been through slow starts like this one. And while each acknowledged the precarious situation — only one team has made the playoffs after an 0-3 start since 1998 — they also said it shouldn't affect preparation for this week's game at Oakland. Last year's club, at 3-6, figured it out at the last instant and won seven straight games to earn the NFC East title.
"We were in the situation last year, sitting at 3-6, and we have to dig ourselves out of this hole," Griffin said Sunday. "No one else is going to do it for us. Nothing that we say in these press conferences, or any of that, is going to change it. It's decided on the field, in between the lines."
The whys are not as easy to pinpoint. Certainly the Redskins were unlikely to sustain last year's incredible 31-to-17 turnover ratio. That has already bitten them this season with two fumbles and four interceptions to three recovered fumbles and one interception. And two of those defensive turnovers have resulted in DeAngelo Hall touchdowns.
That hasn't mattered because the offense hasn't been consistently good enough to help, though several players said they saw signs of progress on Sunday against the Lions. There were long, sustained drives that should have resulted in points.
But Griffin's interception in the second quarter and his fumble in the fourth quarter ended those drives. Wide receiver Aldrick Robinson also could have made the catch on Griffin's beauty of a 57-yard throw in the fourth quarter. That play was ruled a touchdown and overturned on replay.
"It doesn't look great and our record doesn't reflect it, but we're getting better, we're doing better," offensive lineman Chris Chester said.
Penalties remain a confounding issue with 17 called against the Redskins for 153 yards. Some are bad luck, others result from a lack of focus. Combined with the turnovers, however, they have proved lethal. Only seven of the NFL's 32 teams have had more penalty yards whistled against them through three games. That has to change quickly or Washington will head into its bye week with its season in ruins.
"Guys did have some expectations just based on the offseason we had, not really about last year," defensive lineman Barry Cofield said. "But just the way we prepared. We were able to stay pretty healthy and I think guys were confident and had worked hard. We're disappointed, but we feel like we can break out of this funk with a win."
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