The Redskins, who were 7-1 in 1996 before collapsing to 9-7 and missing the playoffs, were 4-1 just a month ago. But now the Redskins are 5-4 and in danger of another free fall after a frustrating 35-28 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles yesterday.
"We looked like a junior high team out there," wide receiver Albert Connell said after the Redskins turned the ball over six times. "We're professionals, but we didn't play like professionals."
Connell and fellow wide receiver Michael Westbrook also struggled with professionalism after the game. They were quick to point fingers at teammates, and made it sound as if the team is on the verge of unraveling.
The Eagles started their winning drive in the fourth quarter when Al Harris ripped the ball out of Connell's arms, but Connell blamed the throw by quarterback Brad Johnson, who had three interceptions and two lost fumbles.
"I was trying to stop an interception," Connell said. "It was a bad pass. Bottom line."
Westbrook suggested that some players get away with too much at practice.
"Certain guys, it's like they can't do anything wrong," Westbrook said. "No one's pointing fingers, but we need to be held accountable for our mistakes in practice. If you're going to make mistakes, someone needs to tell someone something. I'm told when I make mistakes. It should be fair, is all I'm saying."
Connell also said he's going to speak up at practice.
"I'm going to get vocal this week," he said. "If [I see] something I don't like, I'm going to say it. We need that. No one's doing it."
Kick returner Brian Mitchell also suggested that he's going to speak out at practice.
"They [players] can get mad at me all they want," Mitchell said. "I'm going to bring it in practice. When guys get ticked at you in practice, you're doing something right."
Connell also said he and Westbrook were getting open but the offensive line wasn't giving Johnson enough time to throw.
"Me and Mike were killing their corners," Connell said. "We've got to give our quarterback time."
Westbrook did concede, however, that "I made my share of mistakes today. This is bottom of the barrel. It's like taking a gun and shooting yourself in the foot."
The question now is whether the Redskins can pull together. With home games against the Giants, Eagles and Arizona Cardinals and a game at San Francisco, they can still finish 9-7 and probably make the playoffs.
But now the Redskins have to get their offense back in sync after a game in which their much-maligned defense probably played its best game.
The Eagles had a second-and-two at the Washington 26, and first downs on the Redskins' 11, 14, 8 and 29 but came away with only four field goals out of that field position.
"Today I saw some things I hadn't seen the whole season [on defense]," Westbrook said.
Said Connell: "We let the defense down today."
The defense handcuffed Eagles rookie quarterback Donovan McNabb.
He didn't complete his first pass until midway through the second quarter and he finished 8-for-21 for 60 yards with three sacks. But he didn't throw an interception, and he was good enough to beat the Redskins.
"It feels great," McNabb said of the win. "It definitely takes a lot of pressure off of me."
The Redskins' offense gave the game away with three fumbles and three interceptions, and the special teams also struggled as the Eagles' Allen Rossum returned kickoffs 89 yards for a touchdown and 86 yards to set up a field goal.
The defense made one critical mistake when Mark McMillian committed a face-mask penalty in the fourth quarter to rub out a Redskins interception and keep the Eagles' winning drive alive.
Turner called it "the big call in the game."
The Redskins had one last chance to tie the game and send it into overtime with a third-and-four at the Philadelphia 28 with 1: 48 left. Johnson said Westbrook was open on the slant but the ball was batted down.
On fourth down, the Eagles gambled on an all-out blitz, and former Raven Mike Caldwell sacked Johnson to wrap up the win. Caldwell also had an interception.
"That was a great call by the coaches," Caldwell said of the blitz.
Eagles coach Andy Reid said, "This was not a pretty win, but we'll take it."
Turner, who met with team owner Daniel Snyder for 40 minutes after the Redskins' previous road loss in Dallas, was on time for this post-game news conference.
"The whole key to success in this league is how you handle your emotions over 16 weeks," Turner said. "I believe we will rebound."
Westbrook promised that better days are ahead.
"We're going to make the playoffs," he said. "You heard me."
NOTES: Mitchell moved ahead of Billy "White Shoes" Johnson into second place on the all-time punt return list by returning two punts for 20 yards. Stephen Davis of the Redskins and Duce Staley of the Eagles gained 122 yards each. The Redskins had a 22-16 edge in first downs and a 424-236 margin in yardage, but the Eagles had only one turnover.