HERNDON, VA — HERNDON,Va.
THE WASHINGTON Redskins' offense, a sometime thing so far this season, has been a model of consistency in the statistical department coach Joe Gibbs holds most dear:
The Redskins have not given the ball away.
Four consecutive games without losing a fumble or having a pass intercepted is a Redskins record and probably a league record.
Anybody who wants to disprove the latter must be willing to perform the labors Gary Glenn did this week. An intern in the public relations department, he pored through the records back to 1965, the first year they kept detailed play-by-play records.
(Glenn will graduate from George Mason University in January. The Redskins have talent coming up all the time.)
The statistical gem is the more cherished, as the Redskins prepare to face the dreaded New York Giants at RFK on Sunday, because turnovers were a way of life for the Redskins last year. Their battered, bad-mouthed defense intercepted 27 passes to the opponents' 17, but the offense fumbled the ball away more frequently than the enemy, 20-15.
They fumbled at all the wrong times, it seemed, and the first was the worst.
When Alvin Walton intercepted a Phil Simms pass in the first quarter on opening day last year it appeared the Skins had
stolen a march on the Giants. Gerald Riggs went wide right for 9 yards to the Giants' 27. Riggs again went right, and he had the first down by plenty when he ran into No. 56.
"Fumble caused on hit by [Lawrence] Taylor," the play-by-play account reads. Seven plays later the Giants had a touchdown and took the lead, 7-0. They won, 27-24, on Raul Allegre's 52-yard field goal, the last play of the game.
"You turn the ball over and you lose," Gibbs has said often in his 10-year tenure in Washington. "You don't and you win. It's as simple as that."
It's much more complex than that, but there is an evident correlation between turnovers and success, or failure. Last year the Redskins' give-away, take-away ratio, as the NFL statisticians call it, was a mediocre plus-5. Their season was a so-so 10-6, not quite good enough to make the playoffs.
The year before, the Redskins had 25 passes intercepted and their secondary picked off only 14. The offense bobbled the ball away 21 times and the defense recovered only eight. The sum was a minus-24, worst in the NFL.
And the won-lost record was 7-9, worst in Gibbs' time.
Conversely, Gibbs' 1983 team set the NFL record with a plus-43 and that would have been Washington's most glorious season, but for its bathetic, repeat, bathetic finish.
Scoring a record 541 points in the regular season, the '83 Redskins went 14-2. In the process they intercepted 34 passes to the opposition's 11 and recovered 27 fumbles while losing seven.
That's a plus-43. They intercepted three passes to bury the Rams, 51-7, in the playoff and squeaked by the 49ers, 24-21, on Mark Moseley's field goal for the NFC title. So they were 16-2 going to the Super Bowl.
But they who had lived by the turnover died by it in the Super Bowl. As defending champions, the Redskins were behind, 14-3, when the Raiders' Ray Guy pooch-punted them back to their 12-yard line, with 12 seconds left in the half.
Everybody expected Joe Theismann to squat with the ball, but the play was a "safe" screen pass to the left flat. Raiders linebacker Jack Squirek intercepted it at the 5 and walked into the end zone.
It got worse, 38-9.
For the record, this season the Redskins (3-1) are tied with the Chicago Bears (4-1) for the NFL's best turnover ratio, plus-9. The Giants (4-0) are next with plus-8.
The Redskins have intercepted eight passes and recovered two fumbles. Their only negative has been rookie Brian Mitchell's fumble of the second-half kickoff against Dallas.
If there is such a thing as a forgivable fumble, that was. Mitchell took the kick on his goal line and started right. Rookie cornerback Stan Smagala tried an arm tackle and came away with a broken arm.
Next came Bill Bates, a veteran safety who in 1984 became the first special-teams player named to a Pro Bowl. Bates put a big-league hit on Mitchell and, by some accounts, he "dropped" the ball. It's a tough league.
Allen's Redskin patrol still on job
Gary Glenn, an intern in the Washington Redskins' public relations department, was assigned this week as one of coach Joe Gibbs' rangers. three functionaries patrolled the ivied fences that are Redskin Park's perimeter during practice, checking for spies.
The scene was reminiscent of the paranoiac George Allen eraexcept that these rangers were on foot. In the early '70s Ed Boynton, a retired Los Angeles cop, rode a bicycle around the fence and delivered his standard lecture to children of the then boondocks around Dulles Airport.
"Coach Allen appreciates your interest," he would advise th8-year-olds, "but it is important that the Redskins not have too many distractions, So . . ."
Allen's Over the Hill Gang dubbed Boynton Double-O-Seven.