Redskins Over .500, but Face a Must-Win Situation

By George Solomon
Sunday, October 21, 2007

The sense of urgency hung over Redskins Park on Friday like an ugly gray cloud. "It's a must game for us and a must game for them" is how Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs described today's matchup at FedEx Field between the Redskins (3-2) and the Arizona Cardinals (3-3).

October games in the NFL are rarely must-wins -- except in the situation that confronts Gibbs and his team.

The Redskins' losses have left the coach, players and fans as frustrated as you can get -- losing leads in both games in the second half while displaying confusion in clock management, play-calling and substitution patterns.

"Two bad halves on offense and one on defense," is how Gibbs described the painful defeats. But for a coach who earned his way into the Hall of Fame by outcoaching opponents after intermission, Gibbs's teams losing leads 12 times in the four years since his return has to be galling.

Whether it's the disappointing Brandon Lloyd barely missing a touchdown pass against Green Bay from Jason Campbell, or Santana Moss having a fumble returned for a touchdown last Sunday and then benching himself in the final minutes, or Clinton Portis watching from the sideline as the New York Giants stuffed Ladell Betts, few 3-2 Redskins teams have experienced such pain.

"We have packages for every situation," said Al Saunders, who runs the offense, "we should be ready for the unexpected."

Which means the Redskins should expect the unexpected today, despite being eight-point favorites. A makeshift offensive line that could include a defensive lineman -- Lorenzo Alexander -- and several players fighting painful injuries seems to indicate the Cardinals will not be a pushover.

"In 30 years in the game I've never seen anything like what we've been through with the injuries," said Joe Bugel, the assistant head coach who directs the offensive line. "I always tell our reserves they're one play away from being a starter. That's proven true. During a game, you might lose one lineman. Last Sunday, we lost five."

So get your rosters out and circle Nos. 71, Todd Wade; 69, Jason Fabini; 62, Mike Pucillo; and 66, Pete Kendall. "These guys are good," said veteran left tackle Chris Samuels. "They better be," added Bugel.

Not United on a Stadium

District officials would be wise to take seriously competition from the state of Maryland in providing D.C. United a suitable site for a new 27,000-seat soccer stadium.

With negotiations between the D.C. government and United at a standstill, Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot proposed last week that the state try to attract the four-time MLS champions.

United's owner, Victor B. MacFarlane, has offered to pay for the new stadium at a cost of between $150 million and $200 million. In return, MacFarlane wants the city to spend $350 million on infrastructure costs, as well as giving him the right to develop 8 million square feet around the stadium's site at Poplar Point -- not that far from the new baseball stadium.

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