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Pro Football: Can Redskins avoid another collapse?

BY ZAC BOYER

ASHBURN—This dark, twisted, midseason path to defeat

is one the Washington Redskins are coming to know all too well.

Three times in the past three years, the Redskins have started the season at .500 or better before collapsing and finishing with a losing record.

They were 6–2 in 2008 before losing five of their next six games to finish 8–8. They won two of their first four in 2009 before falling in their next four and finishing 4–12.

Even last year, in their first under head coach Mike Shanahan, the Redskins were once 4–3 before losing their next two games and finishing 6–10.

Do losses to Philadelphia, Carolina and Buffalo, ruining a 3–1 start, make it that time again?

“This is a different group of guys, and all we can do is hope for the best,” cornerback DeAngelo Hall said yesterday. “Hope for the best, prepare for the best. We’re out here every day putting in the work trying to win games, and I don’t think that’ll change.”

The Redskins (3–4) were defeated soundly for the third consecutive week, though Sunday’s loss to the Bills in Toronto may have been the most emphatic. They were shut out 23–0 and were equally abysmal on offense and defense, and played uninspired for a significant portion of the game.

Individual accountability, linebacker London Fletcher said, will go a long way in reversing the team’s fortunes. Fletcher would know: After all, he made 20 tackles, including half a sack, and had an interception against the Bills and publicly challenged his teammates during the loss for their mistakes.

“I’m the person that thinks we will get it turned around, that we will win this coming Sunday [against San Francisco],” Fletcher said.

“You have to continue to work. That’s the only way I know how to get it done. That’s the only way it’s going to happen for us. We’ve just got to continue to work and continue to look at ourselves individually to see how we can improve and help this team win football games.”

Outside of Fletcher, who was named defensive captain along with Hall before the season, the Redskins have an apparent void in leadership. Santana Moss, the team’s offensive captain, will be out for a significant portion of the rest of the season with a broken left hand. Chris Cooley, with the team since 2004, is out because of swelling in his left knee.

There are 16 first- or second-year players.

“There is a lot of veteran leadership on this team,” said receiver Donté Stallworth, who entered the league in 2002 but is in his first year with the Redskins. “We have to do something to turn it around, whatever it is.

“If someone wants to get up and scream and yell, and that helps, then hell, let’s do it. Whatever we’ve got to do to turn it around, let’s make it happen.”

Barry Cofield, who spent the last five seasons with the New York Giants, knows there are ways to break a losing streak and find results. The Giants lost the first two games of the 2007 season by a combined 80 points and were trailing the Redskins 17–0 before scoring 20 unanswered points, winning the game, finishing 10–6 and winning Super Bowl XLII.

“I’m sure a lot of us, in all the years that we’ve played, have taken our lumps,” Cofield said. “Especially around here, there’s guys that have had rough patches. There’s always examples you can look [at] around the league, but you can’t feel sorry for yourself.”

There’s not much time to do that, especially with a game against the surprising 49ers (6–1) looming this coming Sunday.

“I think we understand that in the NFL, it’s a ‘What have you done for me lately?’ type of business, and we understand we’ve lost three consecutive games,” Fletcher said. “But a win this Sunday would change everybody’s feelings about this football team and give us the confidence that we need.”

BECK BEARS SOME BLAME

Shanahan said quarterback John Beck shares some of the blame for the nine sacks allowed Sunday by the Redskins, which tied a nearly 33-year-old team record.

“There’s going to be some good games, [and] there’s going to be some games that are a little off,” Shanahan said when asked about Beck’s play. “I would say that yesterday was one of the games that John was a little off in.”

Beck went 20 for 33 for 208 yards with two interceptions and was sacked for a total loss of 56 yards.

INJURY UPDATE

Tight end Fred Davis, the Redskins’ leading receiver, sustained a grade-one sprain of his left ankle in the loss to Buffalo and was fitted for a walking boot. Shanahan said he wasn’t certain what that would mean for Davis, who has team highs of 36 catches and 517 yards.

Linebacker Rocky McIntosh, who injured his right ankle early Sunday, should be available for practice this week.

Zac Boyer: 540/374-5440

zboyer@freelancestar.com

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