HERNDON,VA. H — HERNDON, Va. -- The next time Joe Gibbs visits an amusement park, he's likely to stay away from the roller coaster.
He'd like something more sedate, maybe along the lines of the merry-go-round.
That's because the Washington Redskins have experienced a roller coaster of a season.
In the past four games, they've had their two poorest games of the season -- against the Philadelphia Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys -- sandwiched around impressive victories over the New Orleans Saints and the Miami Dolphins.
"We've got a roller coaster going," Gibbs said. "One week, we're dog meat, and the next week we're the greatest thing since sliced bread and then we go back and forth. It feeds on itself, I guess."
That helps explain why Gibbs wasn't celebrating much yesterday after the team routed the Miami Dolphins, 42-20.
He called it "one of our better efforts," but he didn't dwell on it.
"With that said, our problems . . . ," he said.
Coaches usually don't talk about problems after a 42-20 victory, but Gibbs said: "We've been very erratic. We've got to find a way to turn this around. We're not where we want to be from the standpoint of consistency."
Gibbs isn't looking ahead past this Sunday's game against the Chicago Bears.
"I even saw some things written about the guys talking about the Super Bowl. That's absurd," Gibbs said. "We're fighting for our lives to get in the playoffs. That's all we're trying to do."
The worry is that the Redskins will have a letdown against Chicago because it appears that all the Redskins have to do is beat the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts to get the 9-7 record that is likely to be good enough to make the playoffs.
Gibbs, though, insisted that a 9-7 record won't be good enough for the playoffs.
"If we all want to take the approach that we can tank this next one [against Chicago] and then turn right around [and win], I don't agree with that. I think it'd be stupid," he said.
General manager Charley Casserly said he thinks the team will respond to the challenge of the Bears.
"I think we're talking about pride. There's no guarantee we're in the playoffs. I think they were embarrassed in Dallas and I think when they look at the film of the Bears, they realize they'd better play hard or they'll be embarrassed. The Bears can do that to you," Casserly said.
The Redskins still aren't sure why they've been so inconsistent. "I don't think I could answer that. I have not found the solution," Gibbs said.
Casserly thinks the fact they've started three different quarterbacks could be one of the problems although Mark Rypien has now settled into the job.
Looking at the four-game stretch run, the Redskins have one specific area of concern -- punting.
Punter Ralf Mojsiejenko was just about the only Redskin who had a poor game Sunday. He averaged only 33.5 yards in four punts.
His punting was no factor in the rout, but the problem is that he's been punting poorly all season. He's now ranked 12th in the National Football Conference with an average of 39.2 yards a punt. He's tied for 20th in the National Football League with John Kidd of the San Diego Chargers.
The Redskins aren't sure what has happened to Mojsiejenko, who averaged 43.0 yards a kick last year for the team's second best mark in the last 20 years.
Obtained in a trade with the Chargers in 1989, Mojsiejenko has a 42.9 career average.
The problem is that it's difficult to find an adequate punter at this late stage in the season so it's still uncertain whether he'll survive to punt against the Bears next Sunday. He was the subject of much discussion in the team's front office yesterday.
One punter the Redskins are watching is Barry Helton of the San Francisco 49ers, who's doing even worse than Mojsiejenko with a 36.4 average. But the Redskins were interested in drafting him in 1988 and still like his potential. If the 49ers give up on him, the Redskins may try him.
Meanwhile, one thing Gibbs is counting on during the stretch is tough practices. He used that tactic before both the New Orleans and Miami games and it seemed to work. The team couldn't practice hard in pads before the Dallas because because of the short work week for the Thanksgiving Day game.
"We've always prided ourselves on working hard, but you can fall away from that a little bit. Coaches have a tendency to help that happen because you want to make sure nobody is hurt in practice," he said.
Gibbs isn't going to worry about injuries when the team starts practicing for the Bear game tomorrow.
"We're going to go out and go hard and whatever happens, happens," Gibbs said.
NOTES: The status of guard Russ Grimm (sprained shoulder) is up in the air for the Chicago game. But center Jeff Bostic, who sprained a thumb, is expected to be ready. If Grimm can't go, Mark Schlereth, who was inactive last week, can take his place because he's recovered from an ankle injury.