Several Washington Redskins players viewed Sunday's 17-10 victory over the Detroit Lions as revealing the team's identity: a scrappy team that overcomes its tepid offense with miserly defense and contributions from special teams. There was one aspect of the game, however, that Coach Joe Gibbs expressed concern about -- four penalties for taunting and unnecessary roughness.
"It's a real concern for me," said Gibbs, whose team is on a pace for 92 penalties after committing a franchise-high 124 last year. "The things we've talked about from the very beginning is the officials are going to watch the quarterback get hit. And if you hit anybody out of bounds, you run the risk of getting a penalty.
"Our guys know that. We can't be doing that."
Cornerback Fred Smoot was the biggest culprit, with a penalty for taunting plus another for unnecessary roughness. But Smoot was ambivalent about how much he should alter his mind-set, and said that it's frustrating in games when referees have a double standard.
"Sometimes I think our team gets picked on. Maybe it's me because I'm a talker," Smoot said. "But like Coach said: We need to cut it down. So I'm going to try my best not to throw people out of bounds, and do the other stuff that I shouldn't be doing."
Early in the first quarter, Smoot tossed wideout Reggie Swinton out of bounds following a seven-yard catch. Smoot said that he was unaware of how close to the sideline the play was. "How could I?" he said. "I was moving full speed."
Smoot believes that Washington's defense is the NFL's top-ranked unit largely because of its speed and aggressiveness, and to become too mindful of penalties could hinder the unit.
"I'm sorry, we're not going to slow down," Smoot said. "So if we're going to get a penalty like that, two of them a game, we just have to take them.
"Penalties will not stop the speed of this defense. The referees can call what they want to. We're going to keep playing 110 miles an hour. I'm going to get my penalties. . . . I'm sure Coach will take those."
However, Smoot conceded that his taunting penalty was uncalled for after linebacker Marcus Washington halted a tailback for a two-yard loss. After the play, with 36 seconds left in the second quarter, Washington performed a jig. And Smoot -- a colorful cornerback who has become a team leader -- went behind Washington to mimic his moves.
"That was unnecessary," Smoot said, "but the throwing-out-of-bounds, I don't regret."
Instead of Detroit being on the 1-yard line for second and 12, the Lions moved to the 16-yard line with a first down. Detroit eventually scored on a 40-yard field goal, helped by linebacker Antonio Pierce's unnecessary roughness penalty against Lions tight end Stephen Alexander. The Lions drove 74 yards in 40 seconds to tie the score at 3.
Redskins tailback Clinton Portis picked up a taunting penalty midway through the third quarter after being tackled by linebacker Earl Holmes for a two-yard gain.
"The guys have to be smart," Gibbs said. "Those kinds of things can kill you."
Thrash Gets Special Notice
James Thrash was named the NFC's special teams player of the week by the NFL yesterday for his performance in Sunday's victory over Detroit. In the second quarter, Thrash produced a career-long punt return of 43 yards that set up a field goal giving Washington a 3-0 lead. Thrash also was instrumental in helping to down three punts within Detroit's 5-yard line.