George Allen has been trying all week long to convince his football team that the Buffalo Bills are not about to lay down and play dead when the Redskins show up Sunday at 1 p.m. (WTOP-TV 9). Did the message get through?
"I don't know," Allen admitted today. "If they aren't ready to play, I'll be disappointed. If they don't realize what's at stake . . . they've been reminded, talked to every day this week and again this morning.
"I've said it before, but it's hard to get it through. I just think Buffalo is a better team than Green Bay and Philadelphia. I'mimpressed by them. But you look at their record (Buffalo is 2-9) and you just can't convince anybody.
"Am I worried? Yes, I'm worried."
And well Allen should be. The Redskins, to the man, know that a loss in Buffalo would be all but fatal to the team's flickering playoff hopes.
The Redskins, now 6-5 and a full game behind St. Louis in the wildcard race, would still be mathematically alive. "But everone on this team knows we have to win our last three, ot it's stay home for the holidays," said tight end Jean Fugett.
"I'm sure the coaches are concerned about us letting down. We put everything we had into that Dallas game last week, and still came up short. I know I was down and so were a lot of other guys. It's tough to come back from something like that. but I think we will. He (George Allen) has been saying it all week. We better come back."
The odds-makers believe the Redskins can prevail, despite their never-on-Sunday (or Monday night, for that matter) offense, an injury list that never seems to end and the AFC's domination of NFC teams this season, with 16 victories in 20 games.
The Redskins are favored by 6 1/2 points in the cold against a Buffalo team that already has contributed to spoiling the palyoff hopes of New England and Atlanta with upset victories over those contending teams earlier in the year.
The Bills also have had close encounters of the losing kind with Miami, Baltimore and Cleveland. And against Oakland last Monday night, the Bills were behind only a touch-down late in the third quarter before finally succumbing, 34-13.
"All I know is we have to put some points on the board," said Joe Theismann, who will start at quarterback. "I know, I know, we've said that every week and I really don't have the answer why we haven't. I wish I could figure it out.
"But sooner or later the dam is going to break and we'll get the flood going. Maybe on Sunday."
Certainly, the Bills seem vulnerable on defense. They have allowed opposing teams an average of 180 yards a game rushing, 142 yards passing, almost five yards per play, 45 per cent third-down conversion rate and a total of 33 touchdowns.
For a Redskin attack that has scored more than two touchdowns only once in 17 exhibition and regular-season games this year, and 14 touchdwons in all since the games started to count, that has to be good news. Now for the bad.
Rookie fulback Clarence Harmon is still lomping on a sore ankle, and with the game behind played on artificial turf, he may start but probably won't be able to finish. Calvin Hill will replace him, and newly acquired Jim kiick may also carry the ball.
Center Len hauss will probably play in his 193d straight game, but a broken rib may limit his minutes. Bob Kusiel would step in if Hauss has to step out.
Karl Lorch will get his first start as a Redskin at defensive end in place of injured Dennis Johnson, who is out for the year with torn knee ligaments. And Dave Butz will probably open ahead of Bill Brundige (sprained foot) at defensive tackle.
Linebacker Chris Hanburger, who has played a total of six quarters all season, probably won't play against Buffalo because Allen would like to save him for duty against the Cardinals Saturday. So Mike Curtis will open at right linebacker.
The Redskin defense, which has played steady and often spectular football all season will be mostly concerned about containing Buffalo quarternack Joe Ferguson, who leads the NFL in pass attempts with 343.
Ferguson has completed 47 per cent of those passes, with nine touchdown tosses and 18 interceptions. He has also been sacked 30 times, though the Bills' offensive line usually provides decent protection. Ferguson also is Buffalo's fourth-leading runner with a seven-yard average in 32 scrambling carries.
Even if O.J. Simpson is resting his wounded knee in sunny California and won't play again this season, Buffalo backs Roland Hooks and Jim Braxton can run. They follow two of the best offensive guards in football, Reggie McKenzie and Joe DeLamielleure.
Wide received Bob Chandler has caught 41 passes this season, more than any of the Redskins, including a prsonal high nine receptions last week against Oakland.
Buffalo punter mary Bateman has a 41-yard average, but his line-drive kicks should give Redskin return man Eddie Brown a few precious seconds to set up his blocks for extra yardage. Brown also needs only seven more punt returns in teh lst hree games to break the NFL record of 54 set by Rolland Lawrence of Atlanta in 1976.
Buffalo's rookie place kicker, Carson Long, has also hit all four of his field-goal attempts inside the 40-yard line and is seven for nine overall.
"I don't care who they've got, what they've done," said Redskin running back Mike Thomas. "The only thing I know is we've got to beat them. In the air, on the ground, whatever it takes, that's what we have to do.
"I'd hate to spent the next two weeks thinking about what I'm gonna be doing after the season is over. I'm looking at six games right now. That's right, I know this team can win six straight, and that wins us a championship, right? I'm serious. I belive that. Everbody does."
So maybe someone did get Allen's message, after all.