After Redskins' great finish to regular season, this one really hurts

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Sports,NFL,Redskins,Brian McNally

Despite loss, optimism abounds for next year

They always seemed to find a way. When the Redskins needed a turnover, they forced one. When they asked their backup quarterback to come through, he did. When they sought a little bit of luck to win a game, it always sided with them.

But after seven wins in a row to clinch an NFC East title and their first playoff berth since 2008, all of that deserted Washington in an NFC wild-card game at FedEx Field on Sunday. The 24-14 loss to the Seattle Seahawks -- a game the Redskins once led 14-0 -- left a bittersweet taste after a thrilling run that re-energized both a floundering organization and an apathetic fan base.

"We're right there. We got the ability to be great," defensive back Josh Wilson said. "We just got to keep moving forward. This is a great run. Sad that it had to come to an end but right back into the thick of things next year."

That will be the theme of the offseason, though plenty of veterans in the room know it doesn't always work that way in the modern NFL. But that's a worry for next summer. For now, Washington has a 22-year-old star quarterback in Robert Griffin III, a fine rookie running back in 24-year-old Albert Morris and plenty of other young talent, including injured players like tight end Fred Davis and linebacker Brian Orakpo. Both missed most of the 2012 season with injuries but should return healthy next season. Even Griffin was not immune by the end and had to gut his way through the final month, including the Seattle game, on a gimpy knee.

"We got a very talented team. I think everybody know that," left tackle Trent Williams said. "Injuries kind of hurt us throughout the season. We lost Pro Bowl caliber guys. We lost franchise guys. Next time hopefully we can be a little healthier, and we can take it a little deeper in the playoffs."

Afterward, according to several players, coach Mike Shanahan and veteran linebacker London Fletcher spoke about the character the Redskins showed to shake off a difficult start to the season. Williams was emotional when he talked about the progress his team made from October to January. Eventually that may provide some consolation. In the immediate aftermath of a season-ending loss, it was harder to see it.

"It's tough because we did make a great run out of a season that looked lost," veteran safety Reed Doughty said. "But it's disappointing because once you get into the postseason, anything can happen. It's an opportunity that you wait for all season -- and for us the last quite a few seasons. And we didn't want to do one-and-done."

bmcnally@washingtonexaminer.com

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Brian McNally

Staff writer - sports
The Washington Examiner