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Penalties Still a Major Concern

By Howard Bryant
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 1, 2006

A stoic Coach Joe Gibbs completed Monday's practice concerned about the defensive and offensive problems that have contributed to a 2-5 record while looking forward to Sunday's critical game with the 4-3 Dallas Cowboys at FedEx Field. Gibbs said he rested a little during the bye week, but most of his time was spent trying to repair what has ailed the Washington Redskins.

When the Cowboys defeated the Redskins, 27-10, in Week 2 in Dallas, the biggest culprits were the drive-killing and drive-sustaining penalties committed by Washington .

After seven games, the Redskins lead the league in penalty yards, a trend that began opening night, when they were tagged for 55 yards. Thirty-five came in the fourth quarter, all on the defense, and that allowed the Minnesota Vikings to drive for the game-winning score in a 19-16 win. In the Dallas game, the Redskins committed 11 penalties for 117 yards, the second-highest total of the year.

In defeating Houston the following week, the Redskins committed a season-high 12 penalties for 126 yards, statistics Gibbs does not want repeated.

They have been penalized 55 times for 510 yards, ahead of Philadelphia's 491 yards and Dallas's 457. Arizona has been flagged for the most penalties at 60, but no team has given away as much yardage in penalties as the Redskins.

In the three games against Jacksonville, the New York Giants and Tennessee, the Redskins appeared to correct their penalty problems, but in a 36-22 loss to Indianapolis, the Redskins reverted to their self-destructive ways, committing 10 for 91 yards.

"I think what we tried to do is analyze everything up until this point, how we won football games and how we lost them," Gibbs said. "That goes from penalty issues to playing poorly in the second half."

Moss Yet to Catch Fire

Last year, wide receiver Santana Moss was, along with Carolina's Steve Smith, the most dangerous player at his position. While Smith remains a top-level performer, Moss has been electric at times -- his 68-yard touchdown in overtime to beat Jacksonville remains the highlight of the year -- but for the rest of the season, Moss hasn't enjoyed that torrid stretch that made him a Pro Bowl wide receiver last season.

Now, with Dallas looming, Moss is questionable with a sore left hamstring, meaning he has a 50-50 chance to play. The Cowboys are important for obvious reasons, but the competitor in Moss should also be eager to face cornerback Terence Newman, who shadowed Moss all over the field in Week 2. When matched up one-on-one with Newman, Moss caught one pass for seven yards. For the game, he caught four passes for 69 yards. Should Moss play, the Cowboys likely will assign Newman to cover him again.

Since a 52-17 win against San Francisco last October, Moss has averaged just 68.2 yards per game over his last 19 games, with three 100-yard games. He has eight touchdowns over that span, but six came in two three-touchdown games against the Giants last December and a month ago against Jacksonville. Over his first six games in Washington, Moss was unstoppable, averaging 123.8 yards per game and scoring five touchdowns.

Brown Is Back

The Redskins have hired former offensive lineman Ray Brown, 44, as a consultant. Brown said the move had been in the works for a week and last Tuesday he agreed to a handshake deal. "Coach Gibbs called and told me he thought I could help the football team, and I'm trying to convince myself that I can help the football team, so I'm here," Brown said. "I'm converted."

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