With another winless opponent awaiting the Washington Redskins, several players maintained Monday they didn’t overlook the St. Louis Rams two weeks ago, citing turnovers and dropped interceptions - not a lack of urgency - for the setback.
Simultaneously, many of the same players vowed the Rams’ 19-17 victory will serve as a major talking point heading into Sunday’s game at the 0-6 Detroit Lions, the jist of which is: Don’t let it happen again.
“Heck yeah - don’t fall into the trap,” defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin said.
“You learn a lot from that game, and you don’t want history to repeat itself,” running back Rock Cartwright said. “The Rams came here 0-4, and the Lions are 0-and-whatever. I don’t think we took St. Louis lightly, but we don’t want that to happen ever again.”
“If you were somebody who did overlook a winless St. Louis team, that definitely would change your mind-set and your approach,” center Casey Rabach added. “A learning lesson for sure.”
If those comments and the locker room vibe after the 14-11 less-than-pretty win over the Cleveland Browns serve as an early indicator, the chances of the Redskins laying another egg against a winless team appear slim.
With two games before their bye week, the Redskins are in position to extend their hold on second place in the NFC East or pull even in the loss column with the 5-1 New York Giants.
“We’re not going to overlook Detroit,” tight end Chris Cooley said. “That’s going to be the topic of the week. Nobody believes we overlooked the Rams because we played hard. But this is a big game for us. We can take care of our destiny in the division with Dallas losing [to St. Louis] and keep moving ahead.”
Detroit and Cincinnati remain the only two winless teams in the league. The Redskins travel to face the Bengals in December.
The Lions already have fired longtime general manager Matt Millen, traded receiver Roy Williams and placed quarterback Jon Kitna on injured reserve. They are one of three teams that rank 27th or lower in offense and defense, while opponents have outscored the Lions 54-0 in the first quarter.
Yet Redskins coach Jim Zorn channeled Joe Gibbs when asked about the Lions, heaping praise on Detroit.
“This team is going to be the most dangerous team in the National Football League, and at 0-6 they’ve played well in all their games,” he said. “They’re a competitive team. They have been a competitive team against every one of the opponents I’ve watched. It’s the score that’s made the difference, not their effort and not their plan.”
Zorn must have watched the Lions’ preseason games; Detroit was the only team to go undefeated. Once the results started counting, it has been tough for the Lions. They have lost by 13, 23, 18, 27, two and seven points.
The latest loss was 28-21 at Houston, a game the Texans led 28-10 entering the fourth quarter.
St. Louis came to town with worse numbers but scored a defensive touchdown and won with a field goal at the buzzer. It taught the Redskins anything can happen if Detroit is allowed to hang around.
“We can’t take the attitude of ‘it’s a week off,’ ” linebacker Marcus Washington said. “A lot of times, when you play a team that hasn’t had a win, they’re wounded but they come out fighting the toughest, and people will ask, ‘How can that team with that record play good?’ It’s not that we’re slacking. It’s that they’re playing good ball.”
Right tackle Jon Jansen has been in the Lions’ situation. He, Chris Samuels and Fred Smoot are the only players remaining from the 2001 Redskins team that started 0-5 while getting outscored 144-32.
“When we were in that situation, a team would get 14 points and you start thinking, ‘Here we go again. It’s the same as last week,’ ” he said. “The position we would like to be in is to stay on them and don’t give them hope.”
The 2001 Redskins won five consecutive games after their horrid start. The Rams won their second straight by pounding Dallas on Sunday.
The Redskins have pounded nobody this season (their five wins are by a combined 23 points) but have been efficient enough offensively and defensively to know their best effort is good enough to beat anybody. That will be the focus this week: Take care of the Redskins, be aware of the Lions’ strengths and beat a team that’s down.
“We have to play Redskins football. It’s not about the Lions; it’s about the Redskins,” Griffin said. “On defense, we have to make corrections from the last two games and hopefully not just play good and win but stone a team and dominate for the whole 60 minutes.”
Added Jansen: “I really felt we had good preparation [entering the St. Louis game], and I thought we played well other than some turnovers that really cost us. Take those away and there isn’t a way we lose that game. If we play sound, technique football, we’ll be OK no matter who we play.”