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After Four Weeks, Team May Have Shaken the Penalty Bug

By Howard Bryant
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Preparing for last Sunday's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Washington Redskins wanted to confront and overcome various problem areas that plagued them in September.

There were many -- increasing the pass rush, and limiting the vulnerability of the secondary, for example -- but none seemed more urgent and annoying than penalties, a consistent and irritating condition for which Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs has a low tolerance.

The Redskins entered the game as the most penalized team in the NFL. In 2005, the Redskins were ranked in the bottom half of the league in penalties. They were 21st in total penalties with 108 or 6.75 per game, for 925 yards or 57.8 yards per game, which in yardage ranked them 14th overall.

It was an improvement over 2004, when the Redskins committed 115 penalties for 1,047 yards, or 7.18 penalties for 65.4 yards per game.

The Redskins are still at the top of the list in yards penalized with 338 -- an average of 84.5 yards per game -- and their 34 penalties are second to only Minnesota, but on Sunday, Gibbs saw progress. The Redskins were penalized four times for 40 yards, their lowest numbers for the season.

The defense did not commit a penalty, a contrast to the previous three weeks, when the Redskins' secondary had been tagged for at least one crucial pass interference or holding penalty in each game. The Redskins had also been struggling with key personal foul penalties.

When the Redskins were flagged for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after Santana Moss's 55-yard first-quarter touchdown, the penalty had an immediate effect on the game. John Hall kicked off from his 20-yard line and Maurice Jones-Drew's runback gave the Jaguars prime field position at the 40-yard line.

Archuleta Has a Breakout Day

On Sunday, safety Adam Archuleta had his first big game of the season, sacking Jacksonville quarterback Byron Leftwich on a blitz in the second quarter. Archuleta spent more time Sunday doing what he does best, moving toward the line and rushing the quarterback. It was the first time this season that he began to play closer to what he considers to be his strengths.

"That's what I do. That's what I've been able to do," Archuleta said. "That's where I feel comfortable and feel like I can have the most impact."

The transition for Archuleta has been difficult. He leads the team in solo tackles with 22 and is second to linebacker Lemar Marshall in overall tackles with 25, but is admittedly in transition mode. He is being asked to cover more than attack the line, which is a considerable difference from his years in St. Louis. He is getting used to the Redskins' culture as well.

"It's a whole different gig here," he said.

Moss Is Catching Up

After his 138-yard receiving performance, Moss ranks eighth in the NFL in receiving yards. His 19.2 yards per catch are fourth among receivers with at least 300 yards receiving. Quarterback Mark Brunell ranks eighth in passing yards and John Hall is fifth overall in points with 33. . . . Brunell is also 10th in the league in passer rating at 94.2. Rock Cartwright is third in kickoff average at 28.4 yards per game. Cartwright's numbers may have been aided by his 100-yard kickoff return against Dallas Sept. 17, but his 46-yard return in the fourth quarter against Jacksonville on Sunday also set up a score. . . . The Redskins' defense is 15th in overall yards allowed at 311 yards per game. Last season, the Redskins yielded 297 yards per game, good for ninth overall. After shutting down the Jaguars' run game -- 15 carries for 33 yards -- the Redskins ranked ninth, yielding just 3.2 yards per rush. This Sunday's opponent, the Giants, are second behind Baltimore at 2.9 per carry.

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