When a football team is winning, the talk is about togetherness. When it's losing, the fingers usually know where to point.
For the 2-13 Washington Federals, much of the blame has been placed upon the defense, which ranks 11th in the 12-team USFL, allowing 353 yards per game.
In the last two games, however, the defense has improved, yielding a combined 439 yards. In Saturday's 18-11 win it limited Arizona to 173 yards.
"We're getting better coordinated on defense," Coach Ray Jauch said. "The problem has been not being able to stop people when we need to."
The Federals were memorably burned by Arizona quarterback Alan Risher's 98-yard pass to Jackie Flowers (longest in USFL) and by Herschel Walker's 83-yard run for New Jersey.
"We'd reach a point in the game where we'd only be a few points behind, and then we'd give up that big play. That really hurt," outside linebacker Mike Corvino said.
Corvino is a virtual veteran: he's started the last four games. He plays alongside another rookie, former teammate Mike Muller, the middle linebacker who follows Kevin McClain, Dan Lloyd and Ed Baxley.
"We haven't been as settled at linebacker as we'd like to be," Jauch admitted. "Muller needs some time; Corvino has had to make the transition from college to pro (and the 4-3)."
At Maryland, Muller played linebacker in a wide-tackle six defense, and teammate Corvino was a down lineman. "I used to line up over the tackle," Muller explained. "In the middle, I have to cover more of the field."
Corvino has the even more difficult adjustment of changing positions. "I have a lot to learn on pass coverage," he said. "But I still get to rush the ball. I can now get a guy on an 'island,' in a one-on-one situation. That's what I did before (as a lineman)."
Muller, in his first pro game, led the team in tackles last week with 14. He was, understandably, excited. "Man, I was real, real nervous," he said. "The day of the game I was jumping up and down on my bed, running around my room.
"I was still able to eat," he grinned.
Against the run, the defense has given up 143 yards per game, against the pass, 210 . . . Safety Doug Greene is second in the USFL with seven interceptions (Chicago's Luther Bradley has 12). Greene also leads the team in tackles with 135.