Little Reason for Big-Time Angst

Friday, November 2, 2007; Page E08

The prevailing mood toward Joe Gibbs and his football team since Sunday's loss to the New England Patriots has alternated between contempt and frustration. Outside Ashburn, people want the Washington Redskins to be angrier about getting waxed 52-7 in Foxborough. More than that, four years after Gibbs came back to restore order, they can't fathom the gap between the Redskins and the NFL's elite is that embarrassingly wide.

Seven games into 2007, that's a sentiment I just don't get.

Yes, they were crushed by the Patriots. But seven other NFL teams, including the Cowboys, have met much the same fate.

With no disrespect for the 1-7 Jets, by late Sunday afternoon the Redskins should be 5-3. That's halfway to 10-6, halfway to the playoffs in the nobody-is-that-good NFC, a conference so lacking in dominance that 7-9 might make the playoffs. By default, St. Louis is alive.

The teams the Redskins have lost to -- the Giants, Packers and Patriots -- are 20-3. The Redskins can go two games over .500 at the midway point with a collection of fused-together body parts doubling as an offensive line.

Their starting left cornerback is done for the season and they're a Shawn Springs hamstring pull from not being able to cover anyone in the secondary. Sean Taylor is playing center field with almost no help.

The verb "scampered" has not yet been used to describe a Redskins running back. Clinton Portis has yet to bust a long run. Ladell Betts has barely seen the football.

The Redskins still should go to 5-3. Not since Darrell Green spouted off in 1996 that a 7-1 Norv Turner-coached team wasn't very good -- he turned out to be right as the Redskins finished 9-7 and missed the playoffs -- has there been such worry about a Washington team with a winning record.

A friend and longtime fan said he does not remember having seen this much lack of faith in a Gibbs-coached team over .500, which either says the St. Joe mythology is wearing off or it simply takes into account several hard truths about this team: 1) That it's averaging just 3.5 yards per carry, 2) it's banged up at key positions and/or 3) Jason Campbell is starting to show the strain of being a young quarterback playing behind a cut-and-paste collage of an o-line.

Even so, a victory Sunday would give the Redskins as many wins as they had all of last season. Every one of their goals are still in front of them. Why so much worry from the congregation, who act as if the wheels are about to come off?

"We're not down and out," Portis said yesterday, after practice. He even shot down the idea of a must-win Sunday against the Jets at the Meadowlands. Falling to 4-4, Portis said, would make the season that much tougher for his team. But that's it. "We could still go 12-4."

Portis added, "We got to find a way to get home-field advantage and find a way to win the division."

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