By Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 22, 2007
It isn't a good thing when players use words such as "embarrassing" to describe their performance, which members of the Washington Redskins' offense did often yesterday after a 21-19 victory over Arizona in front of 85,640 at FedEx Field. Many offensive players apologized to their defensive teammates and said that group again carried too much of the load.
Unfortunately for the Redskins, this story line has been repeated several times in the first six games. The defense has provided the foundation for a 4-2 record, the Redskins said, and the offense is still playing catch-up.
"To be honest about it, we are actually a little embarrassed with the way we performed," Pro Bowl left tackle Chris Samuels said. "It is embarrassing that we didn't help our defense more than we did.
"Fortunately, it's a team game, and we all know that. Luckily, our defense bailed us out, but we've got to give those guys more help."
The statistics paint a grim picture. Washington had 160 yards and rushed for 73 yards on 28 attempts (2.6 average per carry).
Quarterback Jason Campbell completed 12 of 18 passes for 95 yards and one interception. The Redskins converted 4 of 12 third-down opportunities and failed to get a first down in the fourth quarter while the Cardinals rallied against a defense that spent too much time on the field.
"Offensively, we're still working on some things," Campbell said. "We need to improve. We appreciate the defense's effort. They continue to keep fighting."
The defense's effort in the final quarter was the key to the victory, players said.
Arizona had the ball for 10 minutes in the fourth period. On each of its first three possessions, meantime, the Redskins went three-and-out.
Leading 21-13 with 3 minutes 38 seconds remaining in the game, the Redskins started at their 20-yard line after stopping the Cardinals and forcing a punt. The Redskins gained four yards, and only 48 seconds had elapsed when the Cardinals regained possession on a punt.
"It's frustrating," said running back Clinton Portis, who gained 43 yards on 18 carries and scored two touchdowns. "Offensively, we know we can't leave our defense on that field like that no matter who we play. We just can't keep putting our defense in that position."
After the punt, Leonard Pope scored on a one-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback Tim Rattay, and Arizona, which failed on a two-point conversion, trailed 21-19 with 26 seconds to play. The Cardinals recovered an onside kick, but place kicker Neil Rackers's 55-yard field goal attempt went wide left. Campbell kneeled to run out the final two seconds.
Said left guard Pete Kendall: "We were lucky that didn't come back and kill us."
The Redskins were short-handed on offense. Starting center Casey Rabach was inactive because of a groin injury. Right tackle Todd Wade started despite being slowed in practice last week because of a groin injury and backup tackle Stephon Heyer also was inactive because of a strained hamstring.
Last week, Al Saunders, associate head coach-offense, said he had made some tweaks this season while dealing with the makeshift offensive line.
"I just think we tried to just do the things that we felt we could do," Coach Joe Gibbs said. "I don't think it limited us a lot. The effort was there, it's just that we couldn't sustain drives."
Some players felt lack of continuity on the line contributed to the offense's problems against the Cardinals, "but you can't use that as an excuse," fullback Mike Sellers said. "Obviously, I think it had a little bit to do with it, because we're used to having certain people in there; you know what they can do. But as professionals, the guys that we have in as backups need to come in and perform at the same level. We get paid ridiculous amounts of money to play football.
"The drop-off shouldn't be too much, and I don't think it was. I think we've got to start doing the little things better."
The patchwork offensive line didn't have its best day, but the end result is what matters most, linemen said.
"Certainly, as an offensive lineman, you'd like to be able to run the ball better than we did," Kendall said. "On that situation in the fourth, with about 3:40 left on the clock, you'd like to make a first down or two in that situation. You'd certainly like to take more time off than we did.
"Today, I'm sure the story line is the offensive line, so that's the easy one to take now. And it very well may be correct, but we won the game. That's what counts."