Tuesday, November 15, 2005

A game they were never in or a game they led near the end?

The stinker against the New York Giants or the last-minute loss to Tampa Bay?

36-0 or 36-35?

Two road losses separated by 35 points and two weeks. Which was tougher for the Washington Redskins to stomach?

A day after a gamble by Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden paid off when Mike Alstott scored — supposedly — on a two-point conversion, several players pondered that question at Redskin Park.

“Any loss is tough to get over,” outside linebacker LaVar Arrington said. “You hate to get your tail kicked, but you realize that you got your tail kicked, and you just get back on the horse. When you lose the way we did [Sunday], you feel like there are so many different things that could have went our way to determine a different result.”

Said right tackle Jon Jansen: “To me, every loss is the same — they all hurt. There are different facets to every loss and things that bother you more in certain losses. When we lost at New York, it was an embarrassment. When you lose at Denver and Tampa and there were things you could have done to prevent it, that’s frustrating.”

The “what If?” list is long from the Tampa Bay game. What if the Redskins’ offense hadn’t committed three first-half turnovers that turned into 14 Bucs points? What if the defense had sacked Chris Simms at least once? What if the offense had converted a third-and-2 to seal the game?

The Redskins (5-4) are 1-4 on the road, and the four-game road losing streak is the most by a Joe Gibbs team within a season. As a result, the Bucs loss might stick with the Redskins a while.

“They’re both really frustrating,” quarterback Mark Brunell said. “Maybe Tampa more so because a couple of things go your way and you make one, two different plays, you win the ballgame. It’s really tough to take.”

Cornerback Walt Harris said it’s now up to each player to move ahead to Sunday’s game against Oakland at FedEx Field.

“It all depends on your mentality and the guys’ focus,” he said. “This one here is a really tough loss because of what we had at stake and where a win could have put us. … This one will hurt me for a couple games until I can put it behind me.”

Entering last night’s Dallas-Philadelphia game, only seven of the 32 NFL teams had winning road records: Carolina (3-1), Atlanta (3-1), New England (3-2), Indianapolis (5-0), Pittsburgh (4-0), Cincinnati (4-1) and San Diego (3-2) — and road teams were 52-91 this season.

“There are huge home-field advantages this year,” Gibbs said. “You go someplace else, you’re fortunate if you have 300, 400 people pulling for you, and that’s a tough thing to overcome. It’s a tough assignment up here, but you need to be able to do it if you’re going to be a dominant team and a team that gets things done.”

In four home games, the Redskins have outscored opponents by an average of 24.5 to 12.8 and have five turnovers. On the road, they have been outscored 26.8 to 18.4 and have 13 turnovers.

“It’s time for us to understand that we need to grow up as a team,” Arrington said. “We’re undefeated at home, and we’ve had two golden opportunities on the road, and we let them slip away for one reason or another. We’ve got to grow up. We can’t let those types of games get away from us.”

A return home did the trick following the Giants’ defeat as the Redskins broke a seven-game losing streak to Philadelphia by beating the Eagles 17-10 nine days ago. They could get untracked against 3-6 Oakland, which is 24th in yards allowed.

“We didn’t close the deal like we should have,” Arrington said of Sunday’s defeat. “I’m optimistic about what we have going on in the future and that this is a minor setback. We have to approach it that way and not get too down on ourselves about letting that game get away from us. I think we’ll be fine.”

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