The Washington Redskins beleaguered offensive line, which faces one of the National Football League's best front fours Monday night in Baltimore, took the offensive after yesterday's closed practice at Redskin Park.
"We've just had some bad luck," right tackle George Starke said. "We should have beaten the Giants both times. If we beat Baltimore, we won't have to have all these interviews about the . . . offensive line problems."
"It's just that intangible thing that's not clicking," said the other starting tackle, Tim Stokes, about why the current line, with the same personnel, has not reached the level it did toward the end of the season.
"One of these days we're going to explode and we're going to start doing eveything right," he added. "Maybe I'm an optimist, but I've got to feel that way. You go back and look at films and the points we would have had against Philadelphia and New York except for those yellow flags."
Neither Stokes nor Starke admits his confidence has wavered as coach George Allen has suggested after two recent losses.
"My confidence," said Stokes, who will line up opposite John Dutton, an all pro defense end, "it wasn't down before. All I can say is we're going to Baltimore and play Baltimore. When you're a professional, you can't care about being up or down. You just worry about winning games."
The Redskins are 4-3 and 11-point underdogs in a game they need to win if they are to get back into serious [WORD ILLEGIBLE] for the NFC wild-card playoff berth.
A key will be how much pass protection the Redskin offensive line gives quarterback, Joe Theismann against the Colt "Sack Pack." Baltimore led the NFL in sacks two years ago and topped the AFC with 56 last season.
"They're just good athletes, that's all," Stokes said. "They're young and strong and fast and aggressive and mean. They're not really a finesse team."
Speed is that front four's most impressive overall asset, Stokes said.
"Look at their record (6-1). Look what they did to Pittsburgh (31-21)," Stokes continued. "They dismantled them, didn't they.
"Dutton. He's 6-8, and 290 pounds (he's listed at 6-7, 268). He's strong and he's fast. What more do you want. He's got great speed for a man his size. Some guys are big and clumsy, and others are small and fast. He's big and agile."
This will be the Redskins' first game against their former offensive coordinator. Ted Marchibroda, who took over the Colts three seasons ago after working under Allen for nine years at Los Angeles and Washington.
The teams practice about 60 miles from one another, but the personalities of the two coaches are light years apart. The differences are personified in Allen's paranoia at Redskin Park and Marchibroda's openness in Baltimore.
Still, Marchibroda and Allen are similar in many football ways.
"He's the same as George in that he treated us as men," said defensive tackle Diron Talbert, who knew Marchibroda well with the Redskins and Rams.
"Teddy can give you good talent as well as good motivation. That's the key: you still have to have some way to motivate them. He demands a lot from his players."
Both are workaholics - work being the most important factor Allen impressed upon Marchibroda - but Marchibroda said he does not believe in creating negative controversy and then using the ensuing feedback as a way to motivate his players.
In a telephone interview following the Colts' practice yesterday, Marchibroda explained Marchibroda the simple man.
"Each coach has to be himself. I'm thankful the Baltimore club is a young club. If it were older, I might have tried to imitate George. Every coach has to be himself.
"George is an excellent coach and works at his profession year round. If you work at your profession, it insures victory. Some people aren't working as hard and maybe they don't have to, but hard work insures victory.
The greatest factor in motivation is preparation. If you're prepared, you're motivated. I don't go into other aspects as much.
There are a lot of good things about George Allen, too. He's a sensitive person . . . but his primary purpose is to win football games.
"Yes, I guess I'm a fairly simple person. I believe the most important things are your family, religion and football. I'm happy with that. I don't need too many other diversions and so forth.
"The mark of a successful guy is someone who can see both ends of the spectrum. It's like raising your children. People have categorized me as the nice guy, but I can be tough when I have to be. That is how somebody is successful."
According to team sources, it appears unlikely that linebacker Chris Hanburger will start against the Colts. He again worked against the Redskin offense in yesterday's closed practice and sources said his lateral movement is still limited by his injured knee . . . Middle linebacker Harold McLinton was a late arrival for team meetings yesterday, after getting a special medical examination for the loss of feeling in his right arm. The Diagnosis, McLinton said: nothing worse than a pinched nerve, and he will be able to start against the Colts . . . Windlan Hall, acquired last week on waivers from the Vikings, worked some at left cornerback with the defense, although not as much as starter Gerard Williams . . . Pat Fischer, the 17-year veteran Williams replaced, was released yesterday from Georgetown University Hospital eight days after undergoing surgery to relieve pain from a pinched nerve.