After a Week 1 victory highlighted by poised play on both sides of the ball, the Redskins admittedly lost focus against the Rams on Sunday.
It was a physical game from the start, as Rams defenders sought to rattle Robert Griffin III out of rhythm. The offense ultimately scored three touchdowns in the game, but understands that points were left on the field.
"This is what professionals go through: adversity," said fullback Darrel Young after the game. "It's how you handle it. This is the second game of the season, and we wanted to win. I think going through adversity early helps you."
Despite playing in front of 20,000 fewer fans than a week ago, the Rams' home crowd cranked up the volume and the player scuffles escalated after nearly every play.
One noticeable mental lapse came in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter, when Redskins receiver Joshua Morgan caught a pass in traffic that would have made it 3rd-and-1.
After a post-whistle shove from Rams cornerback Cortland Finnegan, Morgan says he lost focus and retaliated by flipping the ball at Finnegan, earning a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty.
Ultimately, the penalty pushed the Redskins out of field goal range, and sealed a victory for the Rams. The play was a culmination of frustration for Morgan, but he understands that more is expected for him.
"The second man always gets caught, and I should've kept my cool," he said. "Coach kept telling me that all week, I should have kept my cool in a critical situation."
Redskins linebacker London Fletcher said that head coach Mike Shanahan's post-game message to the team was clear: keep your cool.
"One thing coach Shanahan has emphasized from Day 1 is for us to maintain our composure, maintain our poise," Fletcher said. "Regardless of what's happening, we can't get caught up in that."
Veteran cornerback DeAngelo Hall agreed with Fletcher, and took the blame as part of a team loss.
"We had a shot, today," he said. "We can't blame it on one particular play, one particular person. There were a lot of plays to be made throughout the game, and the other team just made more than we did."
Redskins special teams captain Lorenzo Alexander has been on the receiving end of cheap shots throughout his career, and said he expects his teammates to learn from today's outcome.
"It was a really sloppy game, but you've got to play through that," he said. "Everybody on their team was doing it, and we kind of lost our composure, which is the opposite approach of what we needed to win this game.
"It was one of those games that came right down to the end, and I don't think there was ever control on both sides."
Alexander was the recipient of a frustrating horse-collar tackle penalty in the fourth quarter. Even though it appeared Alexander grabbed the shoulder pad, he did not dispute the call after the game—just noted that the rule needs clarification.
"When I'm playing at full speed, and that guy is faster than me, I'm trying to reach and a tackle him any way I can," Alexander explained. "I'm not intentionally trying to hurt him by letting him run by and then intentionally jumping on his legs.
"It would be different if I let him run by and then horse-collar-tackle him, but he's running away from me, and I'm only so fast against a receiver."
Alexander also noted that the ensuing Rams drive was a three-and-out, whereas a missed tackle may have yielded a touchdown return.
"If I don't try to grab him like that, it might be a touchdown, so I'll take that 15-yarder," Alexander said. "But I really think that rule needs to be changed."
Putting the disappointment of the team's first loss in perspective, Alexander liked Shanahan's message and expects his teammates to play poised football next week against the Bengals.
"You have to have that mental awareness to realize what's at stake in the game," he said. "We're all grown men, we have a lot of pride in ourselves, but sometimes you have to take a step back and realize the bigger picture.
"It was so close in the game, and we lost sight of that. In the end, it ultimately hurt us."