There was only one way for the Washington Football Team to look at things Sunday afternoon.
"We got our butts kicked," head coach Ron Rivera said following the 43-21 loss to the Buffalo Bills.
The assessment is an accurate one, given that Washington spotted Buffalo a 21-0 lead before it could muster a response. Aside from its three-minute scoring period in the first half, the offense's small victories did not counter its multiple mistakes. On defense, the team could not contain Josh Allen's four-touchdown performance, which was the fuel for a 481-yard day.
There might be some head-scratching after the loss, but no one is pointing fingers. No one is placing blame or giving excuses. The players know they need to perform better, and they're hellbent on making that happen.
"When you come out here, and you have a day like today," said cornerback Kendall Fuller, "Everybody has to amp it up even more."
There's a lot of causes for frustration among Fuller and his defensive teammates. Execution sits at the root of them, and third downs are the most glaring example of that. Washington had a chance to right the issues of the previous two weeks on Buffalo's opening drive, when it had the Bills backed up on a 3rd-and-15. Allen hit Gabriel Davis for a 23-yard completion, which kept a 75-yard scoring drive alive. Buffalo converted 9-of-15 third down attempts on Sunday.
"If you get off the field on third down, you give yourself a chance to win," Fuller said. "That's an area where you can bail yourself out. If you're giving up plays and you go out there and make a play on third down, it stops the drive."
Washington's offense faced similar problems, finishing the afternoon just 2-of-11 on third downs. That wasn't helped by turnover problems, which came at critical moments against the Chargers and Giants, making a return in the form of two picks from Taylor Heinicke and a fumble from Logan Thomas.
Both picks from Heinicke were throws he would like to have back. His first, a pass intended for Terry McLaurin, was snatched by Jordan Poyer, who jumped in front of the route. The next was even more frustrating; Heinicke made an ill-advised throw into several Bills defenders, and one of them, Micah Hyde, grabbed it instead of the intended Adam Humphries.
"We're down 20, and I'm trying to make something happen, I have to realize we can't score 20 points on one possession," Heinicke said. "So, really just sticking to the game plan, sticking to the playbook and chopping away at it. It's something to learn from, for sure."
Rivera is not going to fault Heinicke for trying to win; after all, that was the emotion behind the errors. But he did force the ball to make plays, and that can't happen against a Bills defense that allowed the second-fewest yards in the league.
"That's a really good defense," Heinicke said. "That's not to say those penalties and picks are accounted for because of that. We've still got to play better. I just feel like we shot ourselves in the foot."
Rivera said the issues on defense come from players trying to have an impact individually, but that statement could be applied to both sides of the ball. There were plays littered throughout the game that showed what could happen when players perform as a unit. Solid blocking on Antonio Gibson’s 73-yard touchdown helped him break loose. Jamin Davis stuffed Devin Singletary for no gain in the first quarter, forcing a turnover on downs.
Aside from being evidence that the schemes work, they're a foundation to build on for the rest of the season.
"One thing we're not going to do is stop," Chase Young said. "Right now, we're not playing our best football, but we're gonna keep going. We're going to work to get to our best football."
The question Rivera has after Sunday's game is simple: how will his players respond? Blowout losses happen to everyone at some point. That's not how the team will be judged. What it does after this will show Rivera where the team is at.
The players have the mindset. Now it's time to put it into action.
"We'll find out what we're made out of," Rivera said.