Despite the ugly loss Sunday at the hands of rookie quarterback Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers, the Washington Redskins’ player’s confidence remains high. The last thing they need right now is to begin doubting themselves and each other. As long as they stay humble as well, that confidence will be important with a tough contest coming up this weekend against the Buffalo Bills.
One would have thought that the post game interviews would focus on quarterback John Beck’s debut, but the defense – or lack thereof – was actually in the spotlight. The Panthers ‘pitch-and-catch,’ college-type offense shredded the Redskins’ secondary and the previously successful run defense could not stop Carolina’s rushing attack, which included its quarterback.
“It’s not something you see very often,” defensive lineman Adam Carriker said after the game about the type of plays Carolina assaulted Washington with. “It’s more of a college-style offense when they do that so it’s a little bit tougher but it’s not something we couldn’t have stopped.”
Even as Carriker spoke of the defense not stopping the Panthers, the idea that they could not stop them was not an option. The D-lineman knew they were capable of doing so… they just didn’t.
“Just frustrated,” he said when asked how the defense felt. “Because we know we should get off the field, we know we could stop them. It just wasn’t happening.”
Linebacker Brian Orakpo commented that indicated the defense was out of sync. What I saw was that they had a lot of trouble stopping the dangerous combination of a very talented Cam Newton and veteran receiver Steve Smith.
“It was tough because they kept us unbalanced,” Orakpo said. “We called different calls and just kind of got gassed as far as run responsibilities and guys not fitting in properly. That’s something we need to work on. They did a great job running the ball, throwing the ball… just kept us unbalanced a little bit.”
You never want to hear players “trash talking” before they have accomplished much. That’s a different animal than having confidence in yourself, your teammates and your coach.
“Each and every week we think we’re going to hold guys to negative yards, to reach our goal,” Landry said. “But we just are not executing well. We need to come back and regroup as a defense as a whole.”
Considering the current instability that the offense has had at the quarterback position and with the injuries to the offensive line, it would be easy for the guys on the defense to take the stance that if the offensive group would score some points, it would take pressure off of them. Landry would not be goaded into saying anything like that and I applaud his attitude about taking his share of the responsibility for the loss.
“Too much pressure?” the safety asked incredulously when the lack of offensive scoring was brought up. “Nah, that’s our job. It’s to defend. No matter if the offense goes out there and doesn’t put any points on the board. You know, if [the opposition] doesn’t score they don’t win. We still gotta execute and do what we need to do on defense. So it doesn’t matter what the offense does.”
“At this point we just need to find ourselves and regroup” he reiterated. “Just come back with a positive attitude. That’s it, man.”
“All the hearsay and all the speculation just doesn’t matter. We need to keep everything in-house, keep it in a small circle. That’s just the teammates and coaching staff. We know what we need to do to get better and we’re all working on the same goal. That’s to win.”
In order to not let this loss turn into a trend – which as happened in recent years – the team is going to have to work hard.
“That’s just going to come with individual effort,” the safety said. “Everybody’s going to have to be on the same page, just like I said. We just need to find ourselves. As far as the defense, we gave up a lot of points. We need to do a lot better and execute…. finish.”
“Basically we just still have to work on the same goal,” Landry echoed what running back Tim Hightower apparently said to teammates after the game. “We’re still fighting for where we need to be and that’s going to the Superbowl. It’s still possible. All we need to do is win… finish.”
Have the Washington Redskins players lost confidence in themselves or the program?
“I mean, if you lose your confidence, you’re not a competitor,” Landry insisted. “You don’t need to be playing this sport at all. I mean, why are you going to go into each game thinking you’re going to lose? Who does that?”
One of the biggest hits to the team is the injury to Pro Bowl wide out Santana Moss, who broke his hand (a pretty valuable asset). There is no time-table yet on his return although head coach Mike Shanahan will likely have information regarding that later today in his press conference.
“Everything will be alright,” Moss said to reporters after the game. “We just have to think positive and you can’t really let stuff rattle you too much. I feel that a lot of people get rattled when you go through some of the situations we’ve been going through. We’ve got a couple of losses, some that we shouldn’t have lost, then you’ve got some guys going down… there’s going to be a whole lot of stuff you want to talk about but as players all you have to do is stay focused and just know that our goal still is there and all we have to do is take advantage of the opportunities.”
In terms of his broken hand, what he needs to do is pretty simple:
“Get it healed up and bounce back”.
Redskins Nation will have a lot to say today about the loss to another rookie quarterback, playing for a team with a losing record. Much of it will be negative and memories of 2009 and 2010 losses to “bad” teams that the Redskins should have beaten will resurface. Moss doesn’t see this loss as the precursor to a losing trend.
“We’ve got a pretty good offense,” the wide out commented. “All we gotta do is keep pushing and pull a win out somehow. I don’t know… we’re right there and those guys are out there fighting. It’s kind of hard for John to come in there and do what he did today but he did a great job. All we can do is keep going to the drawing board every week like we’ve been doing and we’ll pull it out, you know? That’s all. We’re not in any ‘bad state’, there’s nothing to talk about – we just gotta find a way to win.”
The Redskins are now 3-3 and have suffered two consecutive losses. All three of the defeats were against NFC opponents and two of those were against division foes. Carolina was able to gain 400+ yards of total offense, 175 yards of which was on the ground. Next week they travel to Toronto, Canada to battle a surprisingly good Buffalo Bills team that will be coming off of their bye week; who lost to the New York Giants last week and beat the Philadelphia Eagles the week before.
Bills’ rookie running back C.J. Spiller is averaging 7.1 yards-per-carry and is learning how to receive (averaging five yards-per-reception at that new duty) to see how he does making defenders miss and get yards after the catch.
Buffalo’s veteran running back, Fred Jackson, will be an even bigger threat if the Redskins don’t get that confidence level to manifest in defensive production. Jackson is having a Pro Bowl year so far, averaging 5.7 yards-per-carry and having logged six touchdowns and 601 yards so far in six games. He is a decent receiving back as well, having tracked 279 yards receiving with an 11.6 yards-per-catch average.
Bills’ quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is smart and confident. The Bills have beaten some good teams, including a win in which Fitzpatrick orchestrated a come-from-behind win over the New England Patriots and then beat the Philadelphia Eagles a week after a tough loss against one of their division opponents, the Cincinnati Bengals. Buffalo has not scored less than 20 points in any game and they have scored 41, 38, 34 and 31 points in the four wins. They are second in the league with 188 points, ranked ninth overall in the NFL and probably see the coming Redskins game as a way to increase the number in their “WIN” column to five.
Ranked 31st in the league overall on defense, one would think that this is a great opportunity for the team’s offense. The Bills have allowed 400+ points a game. But their bye week has given veteran linebackers Chris Kelsay and Pro Bowler Shawne Merriman time to recover from injuries (calf and Achilles) and they expect to play Sunday. The defense will improve upon their return. Surely they see the game against Washington as a chance to improve their ranking.
Santana Moss will miss the game against the Bills next week but I hope he travels with the team. After these two consecutive losses, his teammates could use his pragmatic, calm presence and confidence in the locker room and on the sidelines.
“We’re a football team. We go through these lumps,” Moss said yesterday. “We have a long season. All you can do is take it how it is and don’t get too down on yourself. It’s another week to get better and that’s all we can do.”