Bengals vs. Redskins: Despite Loss, Washington Has Lots to Be Encouraged About

Brad Gagnon NFL National ColumnistSeptember 23, 2012

September 23, 2012; Landover, MD, USA; Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Adam Jones (24) knocks Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III (10) out of bounds during the third quarter at FedEx Field. The Bengals defeated the Redskins 38-31. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-US PRESSWIRE

With three minutes remaining in the second quarter of their home opener Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals, the Washington Redskins trailed 24-7. In years past, that meant you could safely turn off the lights and start looking ahead to next week. 

Those days are officially gone. This year, the Redskins are proving that no deficit is too large. 

That's the good news, as that lethal Washington offense was able to battle back with 17 uninterrupted points against Cincinnati. 

The bad news, of course, is that the 'Skins fell short in the fourth quarter, dropping to 1-2 with a tough road game in Tampa on deck. 

But the former piece of news is macro, while the latter is micro. I know it's hard for Redskins fans to think big picture and remain patient, but it'll pay off in the long run. 

The Redskins proved again Sunday that—for the first time in at least a handful of years—they have enough talent and mental toughness to compete with anyone, any week. 

Despite not having key cogs Pierre Garcon and Brian Orakpo, the 'Skins are a bounce or two shy of being 3-0. They've been in it with a chance to win or tie on the final drives two weeks in a row. They're shorthanded and they have some ridiculously glaring flaws, and yet they're still pushing good teams with tough defenses to the limit.

What does it all mean? Well, it likely indicates the Redskins won't compete this season, but it's also become obvious that the 'Skins have the right mentality and the right makeup to experience immense long-term success.

This will be a strange, unique year in Washington because there will be lots of losses in 60- or even 70-point games. As a result, fans will likely find themselves feeling disappointed and excited at the same time, if that's possible.

They'll be disappointed because those losses will hurt immediately, especially considering that this team looked like it could compete early. Sunday, for instance, Redskins supporters will inevitably grieve over that near-fumble from Terence Newman, or that onside kick recovery that came one inch too soon, as well as the fact that head coach Mike Shanahan had inexplicably used all three of his timeouts prior to that last-gasp drive that fell short.

But these are learning experiences for a young core, and the team knows where they must improve. They obviously can't do much immediately about a secondary that surrendered three touchdowns of 48 yards or more Sunday or an offensive line that continues to put Robert Griffin III in harm's way far too often.

But that clarity is something many teams envy. 

Would things be a lot better if the Redskins weren't docked $36 million in cap space over a two-year span? Maybe, but rather than dwell on that and these losses that may or may not be connected directly to it, the glass-half-full mentality has to be to embrace the growing pains and appreciate that the team is becoming battle-tested in a quick, effective way.