The Redskins seemed this close to asserting control over the NFC East. Then they lost their last two games, and now they find themselves in a tie for the division and starting to fade.
Washington safety D.J. Swearinger is fed up with the direction in which his team is headed. And he's pinning the blame on his own side of the ball.
"If you want to be a championship defense you got to hold that weight on your back. That's the weight you got to hold if you want to be a championship defense. If you want to be a regular defense, then it don't mean much to you. But until you have that championship mentality as a defender, you know, s--- is going to happen like that week-in and week-out when you play good teams."
With Dallas' ascension to the top of the NFC East, that makes two straight losses for the Redskins to teams either tied for or in complete control of a division. In the last two weeks, the Redskins have surrendered 724 yards of offense combined. Sunday was the worst for Washington since its Week 9 shellacking at the hands of the Atlanta Falcons.
Washington appeared fully capable of weathering such a defeat and continuing to maintain its grip on the NFC East -- that is, until Alex Smith was lost for the season to a broken leg. But Swearinger doesn't want to hear about injuries or the play of Smith's backup, Colt McCoy, because he's not pleased with the accountability of his fellow defenders.
"We can go out there and do whatever on teams that ain't good. Like I said against Tampa, we can do whatever we want on teams that ain't good," Sweainger explained. "But when we got teams that can play with you, you got to prepare. You got to tackle. You got to do the simple things right. If you don't do the simple things right, you're going to get embarrassed on national TV. That's why we don't get respect as the Redskins. We don't do the simple s--- right. We do the simple s--- right, I guarantee you we get respect. So we don't [get] no damn respect. I see why we get disrespected because we don't win the big game. We got to win the big game.
"The only way you've been to the big game is you prepare for the big game, and that's every day. And that got to be in your heart. Like I said, they're laughing, man, that s--- is for the birds when you're losing. If you losing, if you ain't no championship team, man, there ain't no reason coming in the building and laughing, unless that s--- don't mean that much to you. Unless you're just doing it for the money.
"But if you're doing it from the heart, that s--- going to mean something to you when you walk into that building after you lost two games in a row. ... But my mentality is different, so I can only speak to how I feel about it and where we need to go. But it's disappointing."
It's easier to laugh off a close loss when you're still atop your division, though most any competitor will tell you losing is no laughing matter. Swearinger's competitive nature overflowed in these remarks, just minutes after losing to the rival Cowboys. With the Redskins now locked into a tie with the Cowboys and only five games to go, it sounds as though they better match Swearinger's intensity if they want to emerge as division winners -- or even make the playoffs at all.