Correction to This Article
A Sept. 25 Sports article incorrectly said that Washington Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs replaced running back Clinton Portis with fullback Mike Sellers with 1 minute 58 seconds left in Sunday's game against the New York Giants. It was Ladell Betts who came into the game at that point; Sellers entered when the ball reached the 1-yard line.

Redskins' Gibbs Has No Regrets

Clinton Portis was brought down after a two-yard gain Sunday. The Redskins had 82 yards on 27 carries against the Giants.
Clinton Portis was brought down after a two-yard gain Sunday. The Redskins had 82 yards on 27 carries against the Giants. (By John Mcdonnell -- The Washington Post)
By Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Washington Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs provided a detailed explanation yesterday of his decisions late in the second half of Sunday's 24-17 loss to the New York Giants, addressing his use of reserve tailback Ladell Betts, the crispness of his two-minute offense and play-calling in the final minute.

Gibbs, who was also scrutinized for clock-management issues last Monday at Philadelphia, went into uncharacteristic detail in defending his decisions late in the game, in which the Redskins squandered a 14-point halftime lead.

The main points Gibbs stressed in the news conference were:

* He considers Betts and Clinton Portis "interchangeable," so Portis sitting out the final two offensive plays was a non-issue.

* On their final possession, the Redskins spiked the ball on first down in a planned move to set their plays and personnel.

* Despite what may have appeared to be chaos on the sideline to some on the final Redskins possession, Gibbs was in control, he said.

"It's what we wanted to do," Gibbs said of the second-half strategy. "Everybody, from a coaching standpoint, felt like it's what we wanted to do. Now, when it's all said and done . . . any choice you make is fair game. The bottom line is, the only way you can answer that is to win. Win the game, get in the end zone, you've got no problems."

Portis had only four carries in the second half. The Redskins had only 10 running plays (for 17 yards) after halftime and 82 yards on 27 carries overall.

In Washington's first two games, the Redskins had 191 yards rushing in a victory over Miami and 130 in a win at Philadelphia.

"As a running back, I always want to run the ball, but we just weren't very successful in the second half," Betts said. "I didn't even play in the whole third quarter. And that's just because if we're not moving the ball, Clinton's not getting tired. It is what it is."

But it was Portis who was on the sideline for Washington's last two offensive plays, and the final series again stirred questions about Gibbs's clock management.

The Redskins got the ball on the New York 35 with 2 minutes 19 seconds left to play and no timeouts. Quarterback Jason Campbell and wide receiver Antwaan Randle El combined on a 20-yard pass that put Washington on the 1 with 58 seconds left. Instead of calling another play as the Giants scrambled to get set, Gibbs instructed Campbell to spike the ball to stop the clock.

"We did exactly what we wanted to do," Gibbs said. "We were able to stop the clock and get our three plays and the packages we wanted against the defense."

Gibbs replaced Portis, considered the team's best offensive player, with fullback Mike Sellers. On a second-and-goal play, Sellers couldn't grab Campbell's pass in the right flat.

The Redskins then turned to Betts.

On third down, Betts ran left and was stopped for no gain. On fourth down, Betts ran left for a two-yard loss.

The left side of the line was late off the ball, Gibbs said, and crowd noise was a factor, although that's generally a problem for the visiting team.

"We felt like it was to our advantage to have Ladell in there," Gibbs said. "It happened to be a play that Clinton had already run earlier in the game [for a touchdown]. We substituted there, and he stayed in for the rest of the drive. I would say on the goal line, on those two running plays, it definitely was not the runner."

On the final series, Washington was in a three-receiver package when it reached the 1. The decision to spike the ball on first down was based on Gibbs's desire to bring in the normal goal-line package.

"The package that we were in was three wide receivers, and it was a two-minute operation," Gibbs said. "When you go down to that point of the field . . . there are a number of things you can do. You are in nickel [personnel]. That means you have three wide receivers. You could try and quarterback sneak. If you miss the quarterback sneak and you don't get the yards, then you would be spiking it on second down. The other thing you could do is run a [power run]. The risk there is if you don't get it, you have to spike it on second down.

"The other thing you could do is throw it. If you throw it, you are calling an audible, and you are doing it in a two-minute package. But you are calling an audible on the 2-yard line with three-wide personnel in there. Could you do it? Yes, you could do it. We thought the better thing for us to do is spike the ball on first, get in the package we wanted to get in on the 2-yard line and then have a chance with three plays to get into the end zone."

In the victory over Philadelphia, the Redskins appeared in disarray shortly before halftime while trying to decide whether to attempt a field goal or go for a touchdown. Unsure what Gibbs had decided, players milled about as the clock wound down. Philadelphia Coach Andy Reid called a timeout that bailed out the Redskins, who scored a touchdown on the next play.

Gibbs shouldered responsibility for the problems in Philadelphia, but there was nothing wrong about Washington's last-minute approach against the Giants, he said.

"Jason did a great job in that two-minute drive getting us down there, and Ladell made great plays," Gibbs said. "I was really pleased to see Jason handle it that well."

Staff writer Jason La Canfora contributed to this report.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company