At the Break, Fixing What's Broke
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
There was exasperation yesterday on the part of Washington Redskins players, who welcomed the standing eight-count that Sunday's bye week represents. The common sentiment was simply to get away from a 2-5 record and a season in which nothing has gone according to a master plan that in the summer had built Super Bowl excitement, but after three straight losses has seen the goal reduced to simply winning a game.
Clinton Portis, who is the engine to a successful offense, summed up his bye week plans as colorfully as one of the costumes he often wears when he meets the media. "I'm getting . . . away from here. I know when [Coach Joe Gibbs] says we can go, I'm out of here," said Portis, who has totaled just 26 carries for 101 yards the last two games.
Khary Campbell, the special teams ace who filled in at middle linebacker for the injured Lemar Marshall, was still angry that the Redskins needed Sunday's game against Indianapolis to turn their season around, yet could not deliver in a 36-22 loss.
"It was a gotta-win game," Campbell said. "In the first half we were just trying to weather the storm. Hold 'em, hold 'em, and it's hard to hold them. They're going to get their plays. I just think it's another game where we just played one half. We didn't come out the way we wanted to in the second half. I think that was really what hurt us in the sense of playing a complete game. We just didn't play a complete game."
Punter Derrick Frost, whose tantrum in a second-quarter exchange that saw the Redskins kicking off from their 5-yard line following Antwaan Randle El's 87-yard punt return for a touchdown, summed up seven games of frustration.
"Over the last four weeks, it just seems that I've been irritated," Frost said, adding that his anger toward the officials had been brewing for weeks. "You work hard and when things don't go your way you're not happy. We have to do something."
But if the players sensed a certain type of urgency, Gibbs said that he would not make radical changes when the Redskins play the Dallas Cowboys Nov. 5 at FedEx Field.
Gibbs said the Redskins' remedy to losing five of their first seven games is not to remove quarterback Mark Brunell in favor of second-year reserve Jason Campbell, or any other major personnel move. Instead, he stressed hard work and the tinkering of the offensive and defensive schemes.
Brunell is the subject of criticism for the stalling of an offense that was expected to produce big numbers with its diverse array of talent. Instead, the Redskins produced just one offensive touchdown against the Colts while the game was competitive and have been inconsistent all season.
At 2-5, with a difficult schedule ahead and the playoffs fading, Gibbs's loyalty to Brunell has been tested.
"We love Jason, and I'm always talking to Jason. And we know that at some point, Jason's time is going to come," Gibbs said. "But right now, that's not something that's the focus of mine. So, we'll go on practicing as we've been practicing."
Gibbs said the Redskins would use the bye week to reemphasize in practice lapses in the passing game and in the pass defense.
"Hopefully, there will be changes schematically," Gibbs said. "Personnel-wise, if there's anything we can do, we're going to do it. We're hoping we're going to get some guys back healthy, so I would say it's going to be active and a lot of work over the next two weeks."
Over the first part of the season, the Redskins' emotions have cost them, but Gibbs did not make a connection between the club's record and its mental lapses. The Redskins are the most penalized team in the NFL and have hurt themselves with penalties such as a personal foul call against Santana Moss in the second quarter Sunday when he delivered a head-butt to Colts defensive back Jason David after David apparently hit him late. The play, combined with a fumble by Brunell, set the Redskins back 21 yards, and place kicker Nick Novak then missed a 49-yard field goal.
"You say head-butting? Let me tell you something. He got hit directly from behind," Gibbs said of Moss. "He's lucky he's not hurt. That guy cheap-shotted him right in the back of the head, okay?"
Randle El scored on a dazzling punt return that gave the Redskins a 14-10 lead, but after the touchdown Randle El was flagged for excessive celebration when he jumped into the goal post in elation.
The plays were crucial, but Gibbs defended his wide receivers, and debunked the notion that the errors are a lack of discipline.
"The guy makes a fantastic play. He's all excited about everything, hits the goal post, and falls flat on his back. The guy's celebrating a touchdown," Gibbs said. "The rules say you can't do that. Have we talked about it? Yes? Have we demonstrated it? Yes. That's a 15-yard penalty in the NFL. I rest my case. Three-quarters of the people here would have done the same thing."
Special correspondent Rich Campbell contributed to this report.