Redskins hope to leave November slump behind 3-game stretch run begins

team stresses need for win

December 08, 1996|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

TAMPA, Fla. -- It doesn't take much of a football genius to figure out why the Washington Redskins went south in November.

Running back Terry Allen, who had 17 touchdowns when the Arizona Cardinals left town Nov. 10, hasn't scored since.

Wide receiver Henry Ellard has been limited to eight catches in the past four games.

Fullback Marc Logan has accounted for just 10 yards total -- rushing and pass-catching -- in the past three games.

Defensive tackle Sean Gilbert hasn't had a sack since the third game of the season.

And kick returner Brian Mitchell has pretty much been silent the past three games.

There are a lot of reasons those players have started or continued slumps in November, but there is one constant in the equation: Some of the NFL's top teams -- the Philadelphia Eagles, San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys -- lined up on the other side of the ball.

That would be a heavy load for any team to take on, but it had to be something of a shock for a Washington team that had been playing the likes of the New York Jets, the New York Giants (twice), the St. Louis Rams and the Chicago Bears during a seven-game winning streak for a 7-1 start.

In fairness to the Redskins (8-5 and tied with Dallas for first place in the NFC East), they beat the Eagles, 26-21, and deserved a better fate in a 19-16 overtime loss to San Francisco.

However, the 21-10 loss to the Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day wasn't a pretty sight. Washington was beaten up physically, prompting quarterback Gus Frerotte to plead with his teammates to come out more aggressively in the final three games of the season.

"We can't lose again," Frerotte said. "We need to keep trying to run the football and keep trying to pound it. That's what we're good at."

The stretch drive for the playoffs begins today at 1 p.m. at Tampa Bay against a Buccaneers team that is 4-9 and has had 13 straight losing seasons.

"We need to do whatever it takes to win this game," said RTC Redskins coach Norv Turner. "I don't care where we're ranked offensively or defensively or where they're ranked. They're 4-4 in the last eight games and Trent Dilfer is playing well in a simpler offense that seems to suit him."

Dilfer is ranked just 28th among NFL passers, but Washington's defense, ranked last in the NFL, has allowed then-struggling quarterbacks Boomer Esiason, Jim Kelly and Steve Young to have glorious afternoons, and was no match for Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith, who was playing with calcium deposits on one of his ankles.

Although Tampa Bay is ranked 27th offensively, its defense is 10th. Washington is 16th offensively.

Another sobering fact for Washington is that Tampa Bay has won the past three meetings between the teams after the Redskins won the first four.

"We have to rectify that situation with the Bucs," Washington guard Tre Johnson said.

NOTE: Former Maryland quarterback Scott Milanovich is No. 3 on Tampa Bay's depth chart, behind Dilfer and Casey Weldon.

Pub Date: 12/08/96

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