Hurting Redskins going wrong way in a hurry

The Redskins' season that seemed so surprisingly positive when they came out of their bye week at 3-1 and alone in the NFC East lead has gone a wrong way in a hurry. That's what three losses in 15 days will do to a team whose healthy roster includes just three starters and six players who have been part of a Washington squad that finished a season with a winning record.

When the Redskins play host to the streaking 49ers on Sunday, they'll do so as a banged-up team that has only linebackers London Fletcher and Rocky McIntosh and safety LaRon Landry among its healthy starters.

So while captains Fletcher and DeAngelo Hall can keep maintaining that the Redskins – sans headache Albert Haynesworth, distraction Donovan McNabb and prima donna Clinton Portis – are a different team than the one that lost 22 of 32 the past two seasons, there is mounting evidence to the contrary.

Nose tackle Barry Cofield, who went 9-1 against the Redskins while with the New York Giants, is in wait-and-see mode in terms of whether the burgundy and gold have changed.

"We'll see what kind of character we got in this locker room," Cofield said a day after the Redskins were shut out by the Buffalo Bills 23-0 in Toronto. "That's what everyone around here was preaching was that that was different about this team."

Cofield only knows from winning in the NFL. He's the only Redskin other than punter Sav Rocca or the rookies who has never been on a team that finished with a losing record.

"It's a long season, but the good teams get better as the year goes on," the six-year veteran declared. "If you're not playing your best football each Sunday and you're not getting better as the season progresses, then you'll get passed up. I think that's what's happening right now and we gotta rectify it real quick. It's going to be harder to hold it together, the more adversity we face."

Handling adversity has not been a characteristic of the Redskins, who have now endured at least a three-game losing streak for a 12th straight season.

When recent seasons started going bad, they didn't stop. In 2008, the Redskins were 6-2 at mid-season and wound up 8-8. Last year, they slipped from 4-4 to 6-10.

"Everything's great early, but when the bullets start flying, that's when you find out the true character of people," Cofield said. "I don't see any serious issues with divisiveness in the locker room. Hopefully that doesn't happen. Once that happens, the season will definitely be over. You can't feel sorry for yourself. The 49ers are going to love what they saw on film and they're going to look to pound us (on Sunday)."

That's pretty much what the Bills did last Sunday.

Player notes

--- Tight end Fred Davis, who has been Washington's most reliable weapon this season with 36 catches, 517 receiving yards and two touchdowns, suffered a Grade 1 sprain of his left ankle Sunday against the Bills. "There's always a concern," coach Mike Shanahan said when asked if he was concerned about Davis' status for this week's game against visiting San Francisco.

--- Pro Bowl inside linebacker London Fletcher had an incredible game in defeat against the Bills. The 36-year-old was credited with 20 tackles (12 solos), two hurries, an interception, a pass defensed and half a sack. Fletcher played in his 215th consecutive game in Toronto, tied for the longest in the league with Tampa Bay cornerback Ronde Barber.

--- Safety LaRon Landry took responsibility for the second touchdown by Buffalo tight end Scott Chandler that put the Bills up 20-0 early in the third quarter and enraged Fletcher, who wound up trying to cover him. "It was my fault, I take the blame for it," said Landry, who collided with the receiver whom cornerback Josh Wilson was covering and couldn't get to Chandler.

--- Wide receiver Donte Stallworth gained two yards against the Bills on his first carry as a Redskin.

--- Return specialist Brandon Banks is second in the NFL with 525 kickoff return yards.

--- Offensive tackle Trent Williams, who missed the past two games with a sprained ankle, has a chance to return this week, Shanahan said.

--- Outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan had two tackles for losses against the Bills, equaling his total of the first six games.

Redskins report card: Buffalo 23, Washington 0

PASSING OFFENSE: F -- Sure, TE Fred Davis had eight catches for 94 yards and QB John Beck threw for 208, but most of that production came in garbage time. When you allow nine sacks, your most in 33 years, and you don't score, you've had a horrible day whether or not Chris Cooley and injured No. 1 WR Santana Moss are absent or not.

RUSHING OFFENSE: F -- Twelve carries for 26 yards, including just three runs for two yards after halftime. Think the Redskins miss RB Tim Hightower, TE Chris Cooley and LG Kory Lichtensteiger (all lost for the season) and injured LT Trent Williams?

PASS DEFENSE: C-- Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick wasn't dominant but he was superbly efficient, completing 21 of 27 passes for 262 yards and two touchdowns against the Redskins, who did get sacks from DEs Stephen Bowen and Kedric Golston and a goal-line interception from ILB London Fletcher.

RUSH DEFENSE: D -- Fred Jackson didn't eat the Redskins alive. In fact, the Bills' No. 1 running back had just 42 yards on 12 carries at halftime. However, his 43-yard jaunt on the first play of the second half sent the message that there would be no Buffalo letdown with a 13-0 lead at the break and was huge in Jackson gaining 120 yards on 26 carries. OLB Brian Orakpo recovered a fumble.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- K Graham Gano's only field-goal try, a 49-yarder in the second quarter with the score just 7-0, was blocked. Brandon Banks did well on his two punt returns but bobbled a kickoff return in the end zone. P Sav Rocca had another strong day. The punt coverage unit was sharp and Gano booted his only kickoff for a touchback.

COACHING: D -- In nearly 17 seasons as an NFL head coach, Mike Shanahan had never had his team shut out: until Sunday. The Redskins have lost three in a row and have never really seemed in the games after halftime. The injuries are certainly hurting the offense, but that doesn't fully explain the nine sacks or have much to do with the defense's slump.

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