Winless 'Skins lower bar on expectations

Forget title, Washington just looking for a victory

Pro Football

October 17, 2001|By Milton Kent | By Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

ASHBURN, Va. - When training camp began, new Washington Redskins coach Marty Schottenheimer spoke openly of his goal to contend for a championship this season, saying he owed it to himself and his team to set the bar as high as possible.

But the losses have mounted, the chances to win a title have been obliterated and Schottenheimer has scaled his dreams back accordingly, now aiming for something this side of respectability.

"Our goal is to win one game, and if we do that, to win a second game," said Schottenheimer. "And that's going to be the focus. At the end, we'll add them [wins] all up."

In the seemingly endless downward spiral that has become the 2001 season, Schottenheimer and the Redskins (0-5) thought they had one game to hang their hopes on, their Monday night meeting with the Dallas Cowboys, who, like Washington, came in at 0-4.

"I expected that we would win," said Schottenheimer. "I felt it as we left the locker room, and I felt it up until the moment that we didn't."

That would be the moment when Dallas kicker Tim Seder booted a 26-yard field goal on the game's last play to give the Cowboys a 9-7 win in what Washington defensive lineman Kenard Lang dubbed the "Gutter Bowl."

In all the misery, Schottenheimer said he has no sense the players have given in to despair.

"I know this: They are giving it everything they've got," said Schottenheimer. "They have left nothing on the gridiron. And that is the place we have to build on."

As had been the case the week before in New York, when the Giants blew open a close game with two late touchdowns, the Redskins turned in another weak offensive display, managing 226 yards of total offense.

The Redskins improved in third-down situations, converting on four of 11 attempts. However, for the season, their 22 percent success rate is by far the worst in the league and goes a long way to explain how they remain the only team through five games that has failed to gain 1,000 yards of total offense for the season.

"Third down is the way the game is played in the National Football League. The rules dictate that it has become a third-down league," said Schottenheimer. "If you're able to move the ball efficiently on third down and convert, you keep the ball, you get more snaps and obviously with that, more opportunities."

Things may not get better this week at home against Carolina, because the Redskins suffered more injuries on the defensive front. Rookie cornerback Fred Smoot sustained a bruise to his leg and appears doubtful for Sunday. In addition, defensive ends Marco Coleman (elbow) and Bruce Smith (shoulder) also are likely to be out.

On offense, tight end Stephen Alexander suffered a high ankle sprain and will not play Sunday, along with center Mark Fischer, who missed Monday's game with a knee ailment.

NOTE: The Redskins cut reserve running back Kenny Watson and replaced him on the roster with former New England cornerback Kato Serwanga, who played two seasons with the Patriots and was one of their last cuts at the end of training camp. The team also waived safety Martavius Houston from the practice squad.

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