Coach Ray Jauch spent yesterday morning screening the film of his Washington Federals' 22-16 overtime victory Sunday over the Michigan Panthers. With a downpour partially obscuring the action, the film looked like a brittle print of the rain-drenched battle scene at the end of Kurosawa's "Seven Samurai."
"It was pretty fuzzy," Jauch said of the showing of the team's first victory. "You can hardly see a thing. Maybe it was the weather. Maybe it was the quality of the film."
The quality of play the film did reveal was, to Jauch, problematic. Of Washington's next three games against Philadelphia, Arizona and New Jersey, Sunday's matchup with the Stars (3-1) will be the toughest, and Jauch cannot spare a day for celebration.
"Some things improved, but there are still problems, no doubt about that," he said.
The problem with the offense is that there is almost no running game. Against Boston the Federals averaged one yard a carry; they could only double that figure against the Panthers. Every time Kim McQuilken handed off to Eric Robinson or James Mayberry, tacklers immediately surrounded the runner.
The offensive line, even with the addition of guard Mike Wilson, failed to generate enough thrust on running plays and executed a few "look out" blocks on charging linebacker John Corker, who sacked McQuilken five times for 45 yards in losses.
McQuilken, who finished with 24 completions in 48 attempts for 324 yards, three touchdowns and an interception, would have had an even better day had not Robinson, for the second week in a row, dropped several screen passes.
"I don't know what it is," said Jauch. "I think he may be trying to run before he's got the ball."
Perhaps the biggest failing of the Federals' defense was its inability to put away an opponent. Provided with nine fumbles (Washington recovered six) and an interception, the Federals went scoreless in the second half despite fine field position. A 72-yard overtime drive led by McQuilken overcame, at least for this game, a lack of opportunism.
Two additions made in the past week, improved the team: Billy Taylor and Dana Moore.
Moore, a former Mississipi State kicker, placed the ball inside the opponents' 20-yard line when the situation demanded. Not surprisingly, Jauch yesterday waived erratic place-kicker Obed Ariri, and may now use Moore as the place-kicker as well.
Taylor, a former New York Giants running back, was immediately productive, catching three passes for 36 yards. Jauch said he was not sure about starting Taylor Sunday, but that he would at least play more.
With the line playing well and defensive backs Gregg Butler and Jeff Brown showing improvement, the defense had a fine day, giving up two big plays for touchdowns, but playing a consistent game otherwise.
Jauch said that he expects running back Craig James and quarterback Mike Hohensee to begin working out this week. They both suffered injuries against the Los Angeles Express two weeks ago. The players might return against the Arizona Wranglers April 11.
Jauch stopped watching the game film to return to a theme: consistent improvement. "I think we're getting better a little at a time," he said.
In victory, Jauch sounds not so much like a jubilant conqueror as a man who has survived a difficult ordeal.
"How does it feel to win?" he said. "It beats the alternative."
Mike Holmes (sprained ankle) and Phil DuBois (bruised shoulder) are both probable participants in Sunday's game, which will be broadcast nationally by ABC.