ASHBURN, Va. -- This is the kind of season it has become for the Washington Redskins:
Even after a 41-3 victory over the Phoenix Cardinals, coach Joe Gibbs was apologizing profusely. Gibbs said yesterday he felt he had violated one of his cardinal rules: never rile your opponents.
That's why Gibbs apologized for allowing backup quarterback Cary Conklin to throw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Art Monk with 2:44 left against the Cardinals on Sunday at RFK Stadium.
The call enraged Cardinals coach Joe Bugel, a former Gibbs assistant, and Gibbs never likes to give his foes any ammunition.
"I think there's a real lesson in this. I'm always on players about, 'Hey, you don't say anything, you don't do anything to give somebody else an opportunity to help you lose a football game. That's stupid.'
"In this case, I was the one who was stupid. I made a mistake. I'm always very cautious about doing that around here," he said.
Gibbs said he didn't plan to call Bugel, but would handle it in his own way.
Since the Redskins have beaten the Cardinals in 15 of the past 17 and 30 of the past 36 meetings, Gibbs may have been overreacting, but he never likes to give an opponent any edge.
"What happens now is you give them something next year," he said. "It's going to be tough for us. I made a mistake and now the team will pay for it next year. They're going to be jacked up for this. They're going to be flying back next year. It's going to be a cause for them to get upset."
There's no question the Cardinals were upset, even though Bugel said yesterday in Phoenix there was no need for Gibbs to apologize.
"I don't want to say anything else about it," Bugel said.
But Bugel couldn't resist one more shot.
"I was a trusty lieutenant for him for nine years, a very loyal lieutenant. Hey, you've got to do what you have to do. I'll just put it that way," Bugel said.
Bugel seemed to be saying that since he once worked for Gibbs, he expected more consideration.
But Bugel, the one-time "loyal lieutenant," should know that Gibbs is careful not to run up the score.
Gibbs annoyed the Detroit Lions last year when, inside the Detroit 5-yard line and leading 45-0, he had Jeff Rutledge kneel and then turn the ball back over to the Lions on downs. The Lions felt the Redskins were showing them up.
Gibbs said he had planned to have Conklin run the ball on third-and-five and with a 34-3 lead. But the Redskins were penalized, making it third-and-10. So he decided to give Conklin a shot in the air.
"Everybody is yelling on the sidelines, 'Give Cary a chance to throw,' [but] I shouldn't have called that pass," he said. "Given the odds of how well we'd thrown the ball on third-and-10, I figured, hey, there wasn't much of a chance of us getting it anyway. And, of all things, Cary hits Art."
The Cardinals are the second team in the past four days to complain about opponents running up the score. The New York Giants complained about the Dallas Cowboys going for it on fourth-and-two with a 23-3 lead on Thanksgiving Day.
But neither the Giants nor the Cardinals is likely to get much sympathy around the league.
The Cardinals, though, were still griping yesterday.
"They get a little lead and it's like they don't know how to act," safety Tim McDonald said.
At the end of the game, McDonald told some of the young players, "Just learn from this. Don't ever forget it as long as you're in this league. You're going to have opportunities to play those guys again. Don't forget what this is like."
The Redskins-Cardinals series hasn't been much of rivalry over the years. It may become one now.
NOTES: DT Eric Williams hasn't improved and is expected to miss his second straight game with an abdominal injury. CB A. J. Johnson (knee) also is unlikely to return this week, but the Redskins hope that S Danny Copeland and OL Joe Jacoby, who are both coming back from neck injuries, will be able to return this week.