Weak NFC puts heft in 6-4 performance

Record, schedule leave Washington with good shot

Redskins notebook

November 23, 1999|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

Guess who's tied for the second-best record in the NFC?

Would you believe the Washington Redskins?

Heading down the home stretch after a tumultuous year in which new owner Daniel Snyder has kept the team on edge with his demanding style, the Redskins find themselves in good position in a year in which there doesn't appear to be a dominant team in the conference.

The St. Louis Rams, who are 8-2, are the only team with a better record than the 6-4 Redskins. The three teams tied for first in the NFC Central -- the Detroit Lions, Minnesota Vikings and Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- are 6-4 and are the only other teams with winning records in the conference.

That means if the Redskins can beat the Philadelphia Eagles and Arizona Cardinals at home and the San Francisco 49ers on the road, they would need only one upset of a winning team -- the Lions, Indianapolis Colts or Miami Dolphins -- to finish 10-6. That would probably be good enough to win the NFC East and gain a first-round playoff game at home.

They could become the first team with the league's worst defense to make the playoffs, though they moved ahead of the Cleveland Browns into the 30th spot after the 23-13 win over the New York Giants on Sunday.

Coach Norv Turner wasn't taking anything for granted yesterday.

"We made more errors than you should be able to make and still win a game. We have to continue to improve to be a factor in this league as we go through the next two months," he said.

Although he lauded several players -- including Marco Coleman, Sam Shade, Mike Sellers and Stephen Davis -- for their play and noted that the Redskins played a physical game against the Giants, Turner conceded that they made several mistakes, notably a fumble at the Giants' 1 late in the second period.

If they had scored there, they would have taken control with a 17-6 halftime lead.

In retrospect, Turner and quarterback Brad Johnson said the Redskins should have called timeout before the play was called because they weren't set.

Johnson said: "I'm not sure exactly if I got my hands on it or if we just fumbled. I have to do a better job of calling a timeout."

Shrugging off pain

Davis didn't see much work in practice last week because of a thigh bruise but still dominated the game with a 183-yard effort. He leads the league in rushing (1,034 yards), touchdowns (15) and first downs (67).

He said the thigh bruise was the reason he was dragged down at the 11 by Percy Ellsworth after a 49-yard run in the second period. He then came out of the game for a breather, and the Redskins settled for a field goal.

"It's a good test for a young player to go out and play well after not getting the type of work you need to get," Turner said.

Turner added he hopes Davis will get more work in practice this week, though he's likely to be sore after his 33 carries.

Kicks elicit winces

Turner used the word "horrible" Sunday to describe the kicking of Brett Conway, who missed three of six field-goal attempts.

Upon further review, the coach decided yesterday the decision to have Conway try a 50-yarder was "ill-advised."

Although the coach was surprised that Conway missed 38- and 27-yarders, he was optimistic he'll rebound.

"When you have a tough day, you've got to come back and refocus. He rebounded with the last kick [making a 37-yarder with 25 seconds left]. He's a good kicker," Turner said.

Conway said: "I've missed three before and come back from it fine. It's not a big deal. I'm going to bounce back the next time and make all six."

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