*The Redskins lost a tough one to the Chiefs, but the team enters the Bye Week confident in itself, encouraged by its style of play and aiming to get healthy. *
Last week cornerback Josh Norman was explicit when he said that there were no moral victories in football, adding that "either you win or you lose."
At the time, preparing for an undefeated team on Monday Night Football, his comments felt like the right mindset for the Redskins to take. But after a 29-20 loss to the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium, with the game in the Redskins control for most of the night despite a handful of injuries that tested nearly everyone on the roster, and with the opportunity for victory as close as one dropped pass, an addendum could have been made to Norman's comments.
Yes, the Redskins finished the first quarter of their season at 2-2, knowing that both of their losses could have been avoided if not for some key mistakes at inopportune times. But, as the team enters its Bye Week, coming at an ideal time to help heal numerous injuries, it also feels encouraged and confident in the way it's handled a tough schedule of competitors.
"With them being the best team in the league, with us playing a hard-fought game like we did and having the penalties that we did, having the injuries that we had, I think we're a great team if we keep going at it, we keep pushing, we keep fighting together," said safety D.J. Swearinger of the Chiefs. "Then, this team can really do something special, but we've got to get healthy. We can't beat ourselves, we've got to play more disciplined and we've got play together."
Indeed, even without a victory, the Chiefs game exemplified the qualities that the Redskins have shown over the first four games of the season – that their defense has made vast improvements with new personnel and better depth; that Kirk Cousins and the offense is finding its rhythm with new parts on offense; that they can play with the best of the league in primetime matchups.
Monday night also showed some of the ways they're holding themselves back, too. The Redskins committed seven penalties, many of which came during crucial third down stops that would have otherwise eliminated the Chiefs from scoring more points on subsequent plays.
It's the symptom of an aggressive and physical defense, one that has mostly benefited the team and given Washington a new identity. The Redskins have held opponents to 314.2 yards per game, and just 88.8 yards rushing per game, both good for 11th in the league, and especially impressive considering the offenses they have matched up against. Their type of play also leads to more potential for injuries, which occurred frequently Monday night.
"When you've got guys on this defense playing as hard as they do, flying around, playing special teams, playing their heart out every single snap, you are going to see guys get hurt and knicked up, but that's why the other guys practice," linebacker Mason Foster said. "I mean, everybody can play on this team, it's not like a big drop-off, everybody can play and that's how [Greg] Manusky coaches it, so everybody's got to be ready and I think guys prepared throughout the week and they were ready when they came onto the field."
Monday night demonstrated that. With so much uncertainty regarding who would be available to play, backups entered the game and played as proficiently as possible.
"It was encouraging," said left tackle Trent Williams, who battled a knee sprain for most of the game. "It's optimistic to see guys not back down, next man up, I feel like it was next man up the whole game, so a lot of people played that probably didn't expect to contribute, and that just shows you the grit of this team."
"I just kind of verified what I know about these guys and how hard they play, really," head coach Jay Gruden said. "I'm glad people got to see it. Unfortunately we didn't get the win, but these guys have given me everything they had since OTAs have started. They've got a great work ethic. They've got a great demeanor about them. They understand that this game, with the people we have here, there's going to be a lot of ups and downs in pro football and they have to handle adversity. I think we have a group that can."
With some much needed rest awaiting them, the Redskins have answered a lot of questions through four games, but they're not done answering more. After two primetime matchups against premier opponents on an elevated stage, they will look for a win at home against the 49ers to start the next quarter of the season with solid footing in preparation for the long haul ahead.
"I think from our team psyche, I think we're going to enjoy our bye week, get rested, get healed up and I think we're going to come back with vengeance and try to make this as good of a 12 weeks as we can," quarterback Kirk Cousins said. "We're excited about the group of guys we have. We just have to stay together. Hopefully stay as healthy as we can and continue to play mature, smart football."