The day after the Washington Redskins lost their third straight game, Coach Joe Gibbs made it a point to single out tight end Robert Royal, who had dropped three important passes in the 23-17 overtime loss to the San Diego Chargers on Nov. 27. Despite the key mistakes, Gibbs said he would not make a change at starting tight end.
On Monday, after the Redskins' 24-9 win at St. Louis, Gibbs again did not fail to note Royal's contribution. Although he had caught only three passes in his previous seven games, Royal helped compensate for a depleted receiving corps with a season-high four catches for 40 yards Sunday. With a dozen other things to worry about, Gibbs took the time to stand by a player whose one bad game seemed to epitomize the team's bad streak.
"I was really happy for Robert," Gibbs said. "He was able to bounce back and have a game like that after going through such a tough week the week before. It was great to see him make some plays."
That could relieve some of the pressure on wide receiver Santana Moss, who, according to Gibbs and assistant head coach-offense Joe Bugel, should receive double coverage for the rest of the season. Gibbs said he was impressed with Moss's game against the Rams; he caught three passes for 58 yards.
"Production-wise, Santana has phenomenal downfield stuff," Gibbs said. "For a guy who doesn't have great height, that man can make great plays downfield. Sometimes you are almost tempted to throw three up no matter what. He is gifted at getting the ball downfield. We need to probably try and do more of that. Obviously, he has been playing at a very high level."
With David Patten and James Thrash out, the passing game has run almost strictly through Moss and H-back Chris Cooley, who had five catches for 58 yards Sunday. Taylor Jacobs had another tough day, catching one pass for minus-one yard.
Portis Tops 1,000 Yards
It was a particular point of pride for Gibbs to see both Moss and running back Clinton Portis top 1,000 yards in their primary categories. Moss has more than 1,000 yards for the second time in his career, while Portis reached the mark for the fourth consecutive season on Sunday. Gibbs has been criticized for how he has used Portis, alternately praising his skilled back while often choosing to attack with the passing game. Still, Portis is averaging 89.9 yards per game rushing and is on pace for 1,439 yards, topping last year's total of 1,315.