0-6 'Skins ponder ways to upset 5-0 Vikings Team target of ridicule, yet Frerotte sees hope

October 18, 1998|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

The failed Trent Green experiment is over, and Gus Frerotte is back as the starting quarterback for the Washington Redskins.

The move comes too late to produce a playoff run, barring a miraculous finish by the 0-6 Redskins. But the change was needed to prevent more humiliation being heaped on the franchise.

Green could put only three points on the scoreboard in 2 1/2 quarters against the lowly Philadelphia Eagles last week. Frerotte came in for Green and mustered nine points down the stretch, giving Washington a rare chance to win a game this season.

"It was like returning home after being away for a long time," Frerotte said of his first appearance at quarterback since being knocked out of the opener against the New York Giants with a sprained left shoulder and then being benched for Green the next week.

Frerotte has vowed not to waste a second chance to be No. 1 and he even said he would try to be a more vocal leader.

"I have to be the positive stroke and high-energy guy," he said. "I'm not usually like that but I have to get the guys going. We're 0-6, and you don't want people to give up. Nobody ever saw me quit. When things were tough on me, I kept them inside. You just go on and prepare."

Frerotte's return as a starter today comes against a 5-0 Minnesota Vikings team that had a bye last week after shocking the Green Bay Packers, 37-24, on Monday night two weeks ago.

The Minnesota victory ended a 29-game home-field winning streak by the Packers and prompted Green Bay safety LeRoy Butler to comment, "I don't see anybody else beating them. We (( were the only people capable of beating them. They're going into the sunset now."

One Minneapolis columnist joked this week that the NFL is giving the Vikings two straight bye weeks by bringing the winless Redskins to the Metrodome today.

But not so fast. History is on Washington's side.

The Redskins are 5-0 at the Metrodome, including a 37-24 win over the Buffalo Bills in the Super Bowl after the 1991 season.

Also, the Vikings haven't exactly steamrollered a bunch of powerhouses on the way to 5-0. Green Bay is the only team the Vikings have beaten that wasn't winless at the time.

Frerotte said he can move the ball on the Vikings' pass defense, which is ranked 28th in the NFL and is allowing 247 yards a game.

"We can throw on them. The Rams [in a 38-31 loss] played well against the Vikings, and we have just as good a team as the Rams," Frerotte said. "We can either beat them in a shootout or by holding on to the ball and strangling the clock. I think our best bet is strangling the clock."

But mental preparation, more than any strategy, would be key to a win, Frerotte said.

"We have to do whatever we can to spin this thing around," he said. "If we have to go out in practice and throw people around and get physical to get everybody to realize we have to win, we need to do that.

"Minnesota is a mountain we can conquer, and then we'll be on our way."

The Minnesota "mountain" features an offense that is averaging 33.2 points behind a red-hot quarterback in Randall Cunningham, three gifted wide receivers led by controversial rookie Randy Moss and a dominating running back in Robert Smith.

WASHINGTON (0-6) AT MINNESOTA (5-0)

Time: 1: 01 p.m., chs. 45, 5.

Line: Vikings by 13 1/2 .

Vs. spread: Redskins 0-6; Vikings 3-2.

Outlook: The Redskins are off to their worst start in 37 years and look to stay winless for at least one more week. After that, prospects look better. They play four consecutive games against NFC East opponents. As for the Vikings, it doesn't get any better than this for coach Dennis Green. He's coming off a bye week, his team embarrassed the Packers on national TV the last time out, he looks like a genius for drafting Randy Moss, and today he gets one of the worst teams in the NFL at home. How could it get any better? Try this: The Vikings are 7-2 after bye weeks.

Notable: The last time the Redskins started a season 0-6, they didn't win until Week 10, then finished 1-12-1 in 1961.

Injuries:

REDSKINS: Out: S Jesse Campbell (knee); LB Antwaune Ponds (knee). Doubtful: G Tre' Johnson (knee). Probable: LB Shawn Barber (thigh); G Joe Patton (knee); LB Derek Smith (neck).

VIKINGS: Out: QB Brad Johnson (ankle). Questionable: LB Dwayne Rudd (shoulder). Probable: TE Andrew Glover (knee); S Torrian Gray (groin); C Mike Morris (calf).

Pub Date: 10/18/98

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