Red­skins vs. Ea­gles 1 p.m., Fox Brewer: Don’t hope for a come­back.

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - Jerry Brewer jerry.brewer@wash­ For more by Jerry Brewer, visit wash­ing­ton­

The an­swer es­capes Jay Gru­den. He shakes his head, dis­ap­pointed that his team’s lack of re­silience is a le­git­i­mate ques­tion. For a Washington Red­skins coach whose football story is a trail of hur­dles leaped, it’s un­fa­mil­iar and odd to lead a team de­fi­cient in met­tle.

“That’s a great ques­tion,” Gru­den said, which is a coach’s fa­vorite ver­bal filler when a per­plex­ing topic is broached. “That’s some­thing we have to fig­ure out.”

There are two ba­sic char­ac­ter­is­tics a team must pos­sess to sur­vive in the NFL: moxie in the fourth quar­ter and the men­tal tough­ness to re­cover af­ter fall­ing be­hind early. Washington stinks at both. It’s the sim­plest way to ex­plain how the team has lost 27 of its past 35 games in a league leg­is­lated for par­ity.

Be­fore even get­ting to the quar­ter­back sit­u­a­tion, you can mea­sure progress— and Gru­den’s job se­cu­rity— by the team’s de­vel­op­ment in those ar­eas. In the fourth quar­ter, there has been a break­through: Af­ter fail­ing in the clutch dur­ing a Week 1 loss to Mi­ami, Washington played its best football late the next week to put away St. Louis. Now, af­ter fall­ing be­hind 12-0 early and fall­ing apart against the New York Giants in Week 3, can the Red­skins show sim­i­lar im­prove­ment when they have to play from be­hind?

It’s es­sen­tial to how Gru­den will be per­ceived. As a rookie coach last sea­son, he lost some in­fu­ri­at­ing close games in the fourth quar­ter, which trig­gered eye rolls and same-old-Red­skins dis­mis­sive­ness. But a big­ger prob­lem was that Washington suf­fered eight of its 12 losses by dou­ble fig­ures. That’s a star­tling lack of com­pet­i­tive­ness, in­dica­tive of a glass-jaw team that can’t han­dle ad­ver­sity. It was trou­bling to see that tired story line resur­face against New York, es­pe­cially be­cause Washington fo­cused this off­sea­son on adding play­ers who are phys­i­cally and men­tally tough.

The next three weeks should pro­vide a clearer view of whether the Red­skins are truly tougher. On Sun­day, Philadelphia vis­its Fed Ex Field, car­ry­ing loads of ex­plo­sive of­fen­sive po­ten­tial that has yet to emerge this sea­son. There’s no telling how this game will play out be­cause Chip Kelly’s teams of­ten have slow starts, and with heavy rain leav­ing a wet field in its wake, Washington is pre­par­ing for a game of un­ex­pected oc­cur­rences that will test its re­solve in some man­ner. And when it’s over, road games against At­lanta and the New York Jets await.

In the next three weeks, Gru­den’s team could face mul­ti­ple sit­u­a­tions in which it must re­cover from early deficits.

“I don’t know if we’ve had a come-from-be­hind vic­tory yet since I’ve been here,” Gru­den said. “We­may have. I can’t re­mem­ber.”

He was right the first time. It hasn’t hap­pened, not a ma­jor come­back. In fact, since 2010, the fran­chise has ral­lied from a dou­ble-digit deficit just three times. The last came against the Oak­land Raiders on Sept. 29, 2013. In that game, Robert Grif­fin III helped Washington over­come a 14-0 deficit in a 24-14 vic­tory. Key play in that one? A 45-yard in­ter­cep­tion re­turn touch­down from David Amer­son, a promis­ing rookie who lost his con­fi­dence and was cut re­cently, only to be claimed by the Raiders.

When the Red­skins fall be­hind, they panic. Their shoul­ders slump. Gru­den of­ten aban­dons the run too soon. The de­fense doesn’t cre­ate turnovers that change the mo­men­tum. The of­fense gives away the ball try­ing too hard to make plays.

It’s not that hard to stay in games. Most teams aren’t good enough to sus­tain a high level of play for four quar­ters. There are op­por­tu­ni­ties to re­cover if a team has belief and com­po­sure.

To be al­lowed the pa­tience to re­build this team, Gru­den— the col­lege quar­ter­back who helped Howard Sch­nel­len­berger build an im­prob­a­ble win­ner at Louisville, the Arena Football League leg­end who forged a route to ac­cep­tance and suc­cess as an NFL of­fen­sive guru— must de­velop its will now.

“Ev­ery­body has to come back the next play and fight just as hard, re­gard­less of the sit­u­a­tion,” de­fen­sive line­man Stephen Paea said. “The pride is there. We have so much pride. But we have to know we’re not go­ing to be per­fect and play through that.”

Kelly’s meth­ods are heav­ily crit­i­cized, but in col­lege at Ore­gon and in the pros with the Ea­gles, his teams keep at­tack­ing. In just more than two sea­sons with Philadelphia, Kelly has watched the Ea­gles post three vic­to­ries af­ter trail­ing by 14 points or more.

It’s not just about the Ea­gles’ fast pace. There’s a con­sis­tency in ef­fort and a com­mit­ment to the style of play that tran­scends the score­board. The Red­skins may have a more plod­ding of­fen­sive style, but in their own way, they’re play­ing in a sys­tem that is sup­posed to wear down op­po­nents. They have to be more fo­cused on com­pet­ing for four quar­ters.

“I just say it all comes back to the play­ers,” Kelly said. “We’ve got some very men­tally strong play­ers here. I’ve been for­tu­nate ev­ery­where I’ve been that we’ve had play­ers that are very men­tally strong. You’re go­ing to be up, and you’re go­ing to be down, but you have to re­ally play con­sis­tent through­out and not re­ally pay at­ten­tion to what the score of the game is. Some­times you end up on top, some­times you don’t end up on top, but what’s go­ing on from a score stand­point shouldn’t dic­tate how you’re play­ing.”

Gru­den wants to de­velop a sim­i­lar mind-set quickly. For more than a week, he has re­sponded to the Giants loss by us­ing the words “re­silient” and “ad­ver­sity” so much that you thought he had endorsement deals to ut­ter them.

He needs quar­ter­back Kirk Cousins, who threw two in­ter­cep­tions and missed two po­ten­tial touch­down passes to Jor­dan Reed, to be bet­ter when the of­fense can’t play off the run. But more than any­thing, Gru­den needs suc­cess that he can re­fer to and build upon.

“It’s very im­por­tant for us to be re­silient,” Gru­den said. “We preach it all the time. How you bounce back from these down mo­ments is how you are as a per­son, as a team. We have to be men­tally tough. We have to un­der­stand that we’re all fight­ing to­gether. As long as we un­der­stand that and do that, then we will dig out of some of these holes. I think we do have that belief. We’ve just got to have some re­sults.”

There’s no doubt Gru­den is em­pha­siz­ing the prob­lem. Will his mes­sage be re­ceived? Con­sider it the latest test to eval­u­ate the power of his au­thor­ity.

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