Despite having lost six of the last eight games amid reports from around the National Football League that his team is not a very good one, Coach Jack Pardee said yesterday that his Washington Redskins "are going to win Sunday and make it to the playoffs."
Pardee said he recognizes the team's weaknesses, but he sees progress in some of his younger players, "and despite what some people think, we have some people capable of making us winners again.
"I think I know our players better than anyone else and I know what they can do. I know we aren't a great team, but if we play as good as we can, we can beat most teams."
A survey of a number of knowledgeable NFL people taken Monday showed that most of them felt the Redskins were having a tough time winning because they don't have enough good football players.
Pardee made his remarks in response to that claim.
The season has come down to the final two games. A victory over the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta Sunday would not necessarily assure the Redskins of a spot in the playoffs, "but if we win this one, it will eliminate one of our head-to-head competitors," Pardee said. "Even if we had won last week, it would have come down to the same thing."
Most of the Redskin players talked to yesterday said it comes as no surprise that they are not that highly thought of by some in the league.
"It doesn't surprise me that people in the league don't think we have a very good team because they've been saying it all along," said tight end Jean Fugett. "It's the same people who were saying it before the season, now it just looks like they're right. I just hope it will be a motivating factor for us because I think we are still capable of beating any team in the NFC.
"Injuries have really hurt us and have caused us to lose confidence, and when you lack confidence, you're tight, and you can't play football games that way. But I still think we have enough talented players and ones with enough heart and desire to win games."
The Redskins and Falcons have 8-6 records and both are coming off lopsided defeats.
The Redskins were shut out, 16-0, by Miami and Atlanta lost in Cincinnati, 37-7.
"It's going to take a great game by us to win," Pardee said "The key is going to be defense. We just can't have a lot of turnovers. That doesn't mean we'll be conservative, it just means we can't be reckless with the football."
The Redskins spent extra time in meetings yesterday and did not practice. "Atlanta does a lot of things that we'll have to contend with," Pardee said, "and we need longer meetings to identify some of those things."
Pardee added that he doesn't anticipate lineup changes for the game. The only questionable starter is guard Ron Saul who missed the Miami game with a groin muscle pull and a sore foot. Pardee said he doubts Saul will be ready by Sunday.
Although Atlanta's defense is its strength, Pardee says Falcon quarterback Steve Bartkowski is a serious threat.
"He's got the gun," Pardee said. "He's been hit a lot, just like Theismann, though, but if he gets protection, he has receivers who can go deep."
Atlanta is fourth in the NFC in total defense, sixth against the rush and second against the pass, but the Falcons are 12th in offense... Washington is seventh in the conference in offense and 12th in defense... Bubba Bean has run 649 yards and is 10th in the conference in rushing... Theismann and Bartkowski are the ninth and 10th rated passers, respectively. Bartkowski has thrown 16 interceptions and 9 touchdown passes; Theismann has 17 interceptions and 13 touchdowns.