Roller-coaster Redskins in search for consistency

LANDOVER, Md. (AP) — D.J Swearinger didn’t even want a few hours to soak up a victory before preparing for the Dallas Cowboys.

In the aftermath of a gutsy performance without two top players and after a short turnaround from an embarrassing defeat, the Washington Redskins safety figured he’d start looking at Cowboys film as soon as he got home. It’s that kind of focus he wants all his teammates to have to make sure the roller-coaster Redskins don’t take another dip with back-to-back games coming up against NFC East rivals.

“We’ve got the Cowboys coming in — there shouldn’t be no laughing next week,” Swearinger said after Washington beat the Carolina Panthers 23-17 Sunday. “The thing we’ve got to understand, man, we can’t go up and down. This team goes up and down. We’ve got to stay consistent in our preparation. Whatever we did last week, we’ve got to stay consistent.”

Consistency has not exactly been a hallmark for the Redskins (3-2) in alternating not only wins and losses but games so uplifting and deflating that it’s hard to get a read on what they are. A 43-19 blowout loss at the hands of the New Orleans Saints motivated players within only a few days to get ready for the Panthers, but upcoming games against Dallas and at the New York Giants should test their ability to respond to success.

“(It’s about) staying focused and keeping that consistent approach,” cornerback Quinton Dunbar said. “Don’t get too high. Don’t get too low. When you get wins, don’t be high like you got the whole world in your hand. When you lose, your whole world turns down. It’s about staying steady.”

In some ways, it helps that the Panthers limited the Redskins to 119 offensive yards in the second half and almost came back from a 17-point deficit. Cornerback Josh Norman said players realize “everything is not peaches and cream,” which should help them stay focused for the Cowboys.

“There’s room for improvement,” tight end Jordan Reed said. “Even though we won this game, we definitely could have put up even more numbers and stopped them on defense. You see that and it motivates you to be the best that you can be. We haven’t been that yet, so it’s coming.”

Some things we learned from the Redskins’ victory over the Panthers:

ROARING DEFENSE

After allowing only 288 yards and being on the wrong side of some turnovers by the offense, the Panthers’ defense will need to be even better at the Philadelphia Eagles (3-3) on Sunday. Players gained some confidence from their play in the second half, but see some definite areas of need with the defending Super Bowl champions up next.

“We just have to make some more plays on defense,” linebacker Luke Kuechly said. “We have to play better in the red zone. That’s something that we’ll get addressed and improve on moving forward.”

Adrian Peterson’s 97 yards on 17 carries showed another glaring hole for Carolina, which entered tied for the eighth-best run defense in the league. Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz and running backs Wendell Smallwood and Corey Clement present another challenge in that department.

PETERSON POWER

Despite dealing with shoulder, knee and ankle injuries, Peterson had another game that made it look like he’s way younger than 33. Peterson never doubted he’d play and should be good to go against Dallas.

“It was definitely mind over matter,” Peterson said. “It was game where you’ve just got to bite down and put your best foot forward. So that’s what I did. I already had made up my mind by Friday that, ‘Hey I’m gonna give it a go. I know it’s going to be painful but its mind over matter and just keep pressing.’ That’s what I ended up doing.”

BIG GUYS BACK

Carolina could easily point to two fumbles by rookie D.J. Moore and an interception by Cam Newton as the reasons for a disheartening loss . But the Panthers have reason for optimism in the coming weeks after getting tight end Greg Olsen back from a broken foot and linebacker Thomas Davis for his first game of the season after serving a suspension for performance-enhancers.

Olsen had four catches for 48 yards; he gives Newton a big, reliable target in the passing game.

“Toward the second half, I felt like I was able to play pretty close to what I was hoping,” Olsen said.

Davis had six tackles and two passes defensed and feels he has another level to his game.

“Just have to be better,” Davis said. “You have to get back into the feel of going out and playing football and that’s something that I’ve learned today.”

SMITH SETTLES DOWN

Going 23 of 39 with an interception at New Orleans sent Redskins quarterback Alex Smith to a new low this season. He wasn’t perfect in throwing 21 of 36 for 163 yards and two TDs against Carolina, even without running back Chris Thompson and receiver Jamison Crowder.

Smith leaned on Reed (five catches for 36 yards) and fellow tight end Vernon Davis (three catches for 48 yards) in finding new ways to run the offense.

“I feel like we’re untapped offensively — a lot of potential,” Smith said. “I said untapped as we continue to find out who we are, our identity as an offense.”

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