LANDOVER, MD - NOVEMBER 6: Quarterback John Beck #12 of the Washington Redskins hands-off to running back Roy Helu #29 of the Washington Redskins against the San Francisco 49ers in the first quarter at FedExField on November 6, 2011 in Landover, Maryland. The San Francisco 49ers won, 19-11. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Trent Williams shuffled his feet back and forth in the locker room Sunday, visibly upset after another Redskins loss. With four straight defeats weighing heavily on his mind, you could see the frustration written all over his face as he quietly addressed the media.
“Playing hard and losing, it really don’t do nothing for you,” he said.
What began as a season of hope is turning into a nightmare, especially for Williams and an offense that has struggled to do anything right over the past month. The players can only take solace in their well-intentioned efforts for so long as the losses are beginning to erode the good will they had scrounged up with a 3-1 start.
“We’ve got a lot of character on this team, “ said Mike Shanahan after his team's 19-11 loss to San Francisco. “We’re not where we want to be right now, but we’re going in the right direction.”
That character will be put to the test in the coming weeks what with injuries and the youth movement taking full effect. The Redskins aren’t going to be in contention, but Shanahan still expects a level of professionalism that thus far most of his players have lived up to.
“Like I said, they played extremely hard and that’s the first thing you look for,” he said.
Like it or not, 2011 is a rebuilding year. Shanahan won’t admit it, but it was apparent when looking at the field on Sunday as rookies Roy Helu, Leonard Hankerson and Maurice Hurt all received starts.
“We got a look [at some] young guys with some talent that right now are collectively not on the same page, but with all this valuable experience with some of these young guys, hopefully it pays off shortly,” Shanahan said.
Helu was seemingly in on every play, and though he dropped several passes and fumbled away another, he did flash some of the potential the Redskins saw when they drafted him earlier this year. In his first start, he touched the ball 24 times totaling 146 all-purpose yards while providing a glimmer of hope to an offense completely devoid of playmakers.
"I think you can see that he is a pretty good all-around back,” Shanahan said. “He makes some plays like a Pro Bowl back.”
But the turnover is what Helu told reporters he’d remember from a solid outing. The 49ers capitalized on his first-half miscue, turning it into a touchdown that would ultimately provide the difference in the game. Helu was crushed at losing to the team he watched as a kid on the West Coast, yet he didn’t deflect the blame elsewhere.
“I care about my brothers on this team and they're hurting because I can't make plays on the field,” he said. “Stats look good, but I had a fumble and that was the biggest difference in the game.”
Nor did he focus on what suddenly became an historic individual performance as his 14th catch of the game broke the Redskins single game receptions record held by the legendary Art Monk.
It was an odd game with the Redskins breaking two team records – Graham Gano converted the longest field goal in franchise history from 59 yards out – but they were never truly in it. San Francisco did what it wanted through much of the game and the Redskins sputtered offensively for the second straight week.
“You can come up with excuses, you can point fingers, but why? We didn’t win,” said LaRon Landry. You got to be prepared to play and be prepared to win.”
As grim as the locker room was on Sunday, players expressed the importance of battling back with the same work ethic they’ve had throughout the season.
“It’s not a time to make predictions or proclamations,” said Barry Cofield. “You just got to go back to work and come out and win. That’ll turn the whole mood of the team around.”
For their sake, let's hope that mood swing is just around the corner.