ASHBURN, Va. — When the emotional leader of the Washington Redskins tried to explain the latest dip in their roller-coaster season, the diagnosis wasn’t pretty.
“I guess we got too high on ourselves for whatever reason,” safety D.J. Swearinger said after the Redskins followed an emotional victory at Seattle with a 38-30 loss at home to Minnesota. “We just weren’t ready to play.”
That’s not what anyone around the 4-5 Redskins wants to hear as they hope to keep pace in the crowded NFC wild-card race with a visit to the 7-2 New Orleans Saints on Sunday. Swearinger, cornerback Josh Norman and other players lamented a lack of consistency from week to week, leading to the question of whether the Redskins can handle and sustain success.
“If they feel that way, then I got to do a better job of making sure they don’t get a big head,” coach Jay Gruden said Monday. “For the most part, players have to get ready to play. And I have to do a better job of getting them ready. If they’re not ready, then that’s on me.”
Injuries have played a part and continue to take a toll as Washington will be without running back Rob Kelley and inside linebacker Will Compton for a few weeks. Kelley sprained the MCL in his left knee, and Compton has a Lisfranc sprain in one of his feet.
The Redskins are planning to add a running back before facing the Saints. Rookie Samaje Perine and third-down back Chris Thompson are expected to split the carries in Kelley’s absence.
But now that the entire starting offensive line is back and some injuries are healing up, linebacker Ryan Kerrigan said that’s no longer an excuse. That’s what made the loss to the Vikings in which Norman said the Redskins “just didn’t have it,” so baffling.
“Those games come out of nowhere and just swipe you in the face,” Norman said. “You’ve got to come out here and be consistent. That’s the pedigree of a championship football team and we didn’t show that.”
Perhaps part of it is that Washington has had to deal with the toughest schedule in the NFL so far. Four of five losses are to first-place teams, plus another to Dallas, and the Redskins have won on the road at the top two teams in the NFC West, the Seahawks and Los Angeles Rams.
“Each week we’re playing very good football teams,” Gruden said. “Not saying we’re not consistently playing well. I just think we’ve run into some really good offenses with guys making plays on the other side, and were not matching play for play with the other team.”
It’s not getting any easier this week at NFC South-leading New Orleans, which rushed for 298 yards in a 47-10 rout of Buffalo.
“Everybody in the league is really good,” quarterback Kirk Cousins said. “You just have to learn from these tougher losses where we came up short and point to the plays where we weren’t good enough that end up causing the loss and try to prevent the mistakes so they don’t come up again.”
NOTES: WR Ryan Grant is in the NFL’s concussion protocol, S DeAngelo Hall has a bone bruise in his right knee and DL Anthony Lanier has a sprained knee. … Gruden said TE Jordan Reed is day to day after missing the past two games with a hamstring injury.