Redskins Try to Get Back on Track

By Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 5, 2007

As they continued to work through their grief over the death of safety Sean Taylor, the Washington Redskins went back to the business of football yesterday, practicing in preparation for tomorrow night's game against the Chicago Bears and hoping to end a four-game losing streak that has brought renewed criticism of Coach Joe Gibbs's game management.

Gibbs is under scrutiny after acknowledging he didn't know the Redskins would be penalized for calling consecutive timeouts in an attempt to "freeze" a kicker, and his ignorance of the rule put the Buffalo Bills in position to kick a game-winning 36-yard field goal in Sunday's 17-16 loss.

"Just like the players, you hold them accountable, you hold yourself accountable, too," Gibbs said after practice yesterday. "I said to them what I needed to say. I felt strongly about that right after the game and I still do. What's important for me to do is address that and say, 'Hey, if I mess up, then I need to say it.' I'm continually going to them and saying, 'Hold yourself accountable.' . . . Hopefully, I'll be able to live through this one."

Although they lost Sunday for the fifth time this season -- and 15th time since 2004 -- in a game in which they led at halftime, the Redskins (5-7) are only one game back in the wild-card chase, in a crowded pack that also includes the Bears (5-7).

In Gibbs's second stint as coach, the Redskins lead the league in squandering halftime leads, with Sunday's game the latest example. With eight seconds remaining and the Redskins leading, 16-14, Buffalo's Rian Lindell lined up to attempt a 51-yard kick. Gibbs called the team's second timeout just before Lindell sent the ball through the uprights in the rain, and then Gibbs sought help from an official, trying to determine whether he could use the Redskins' final timeout before the Bills attempted another kick.

In the back and forth during those final, frantic seconds, Gibbs said he thought the official said "yes" but wasn't sure. Regardless, the decision to call consecutive timeouts in that situation led to a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty and Lindell made the shorter field goal. Gibbs acknowledged Sunday he should have known the rules.

The NFL agreed.

In an e-mail response to a reporter's question about whether officials are obligated to assist coaches who seek help as Gibbs did, Greg Aiello, the NFL's vice president of public relations, wrote, "There is no such obligation."

The criticism of Gibbs comes as the team is struggling off the field as well. Some players acknowledged they're still dealing with the loss of Taylor, who died Nov. 27 after being shot the previous morning in his Miami home.

"It's not something that you can just forget about. He was our teammate," linebacker Marcus Washington said. "Only time is going to heal it. With everything that's happened . . . it's tough."

A win tomorrow would help matters. Sunday's loss, the team's fourth in a row, means that, since a 2-0 start, the Redskins are 3-7. They also had a four-game losing streak in the games after Gibbs returned to coaching in 2004. With a loss to the Bears, Washington would match its longest skid under Gibbs, who lost his first five games during his debut in 1981. That team finished 8-8.

The decision to call consecutive timeouts against the Bills was among the worst decisions of his career, Gibbs said, and he accepted criticism as being "part of it. All the great things about coaching in the NFL, you also realize there's that side of it. It's part of what you do. You've got to realize that's part of it."

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