The Washington Redskins showed again last night that their offensive philosophy is to control the football on the ground, and the running game was the only bright spot in their 21-9 loss to the Cleveland Browns in their final preseason game.
Tailback Benny Malone rushed for 53 yards on 14 carries as seven different Redskin ball carriers gained a total of 152 yards.
"We worked real hard the entire preseason on five basic running plays and I think it is starting to show," said center Bob Kuziel. "On offense, we want to control the ball and keep it away from the opponents, and the best way for us to do that is to run it. The only thing that hurt us tonight were mistakes."
The biggest blunder came when the Redskins were running their two minute drill in a thundershower near the end of the first half. Halfback Ike Forte caught a short pass from Joe Theismann and was nailed by a Cleveland defender. He fumbled and linebacker Clay Matthews picked up the ball and ran 53 yards for a touchdown.
That gave the Browns a 14-0 halftime lead.
"We thought the ball was dead and we were starting to line up for a play in our hurry-up offense and we didn't react to the fumble," Kuziel said. "And they got a cheap score."
"That was the biggest play of the game," Redskin Coach Jack Pardee said. "Its tough to run a two minute offense in the rain, but we needed to work on it so we had to give it a try."
Pardee said, "Cleveland was just about what we expected them to be. It was a game of mistakes and we out-mistaked them. They made the mistakes early, but we couldn't capitalize on them. They capitalized on ours, though."
The other Cleveland touchdowns were set up by an interception of a Joe Theismann pass and a fumble by Theismann.
"Joe still showed good poise, though," Pardee said. "He was getting hit a lot."
"We didn't put the points on the board, but we accomplished a lot." Theismann added. "We just continually got caught in third-and-long situations and you can't make a living doing that. We're a percentage offense team and you put yourself in a hole percentage wise when it's always third and long. When we were playing our game and running the ball, we were fine."
Pardee was particularly pleased with Malone.
"The way Benny played tonight shows that we have a steady running back to go with John Riggins," he said.
"Benny is a punishing runner," Theismann said. "A lot of tacklers just shy away from him."
Redskin tacklers looked as if they were shying away from the Browns' Greg and Mike Pruitt, too. Greg Pruitt ran for 73 yards on 16 carries, Mike Pruitt 72 on 14.
"I don't think we played that well tonight, but I also don't think we'll face any better pair of backs all season than the Pruitts." said strong safety Ken Houston, who played some free safety last night for the first time as a Redskin. "We missed a lot of tackles on them because when you hit people like that you have to lock them up and we weren't."
Former Redskin running back Calvin Hill, now with the Browns, called Greg Pruitt "one of the greatest backs I've ever seen."
Middle linebacker Don Hover, who went into the game with a sore ankle, played the first half, then yielded to Maryland rookie Neal Olkewicz.
"I think I carried out most of my assignments, but we lost, so I must not have done too good," Olkewicz said. "They had some tough runners and they were all good at cutting back against the grain. We didn't adjust to that very well."
"Mark could have played if we really needed him," Pardee said.
The only serious Redskin injury was to guard and special teams player Fred Dean who hurt his neck. He was taken to Silby Memorial Hospital for X-rays and remained there overnight for observation.
Safety Mark Murphy slightly sprained his left knee early in the game but did not come out, and guard Gary Anderson was limping on a sprained ankly. Both are expected to practice this week.