Redskins at a loss as skid hits 3 games

Turnovers, lack of offense sting team during 1-3 start

Pro Football

October 05, 2004|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

ASHBURN, Va. -- Rod Gardner's T-shirt said it all yesterday.

As the Washington Redskins wide receiver left the team's practice facility here to grab some lunch before returning for a meeting, he wore a white T-shirt with the word "WHY?" emblazoned on the front.

"That's my answer right now -- why," Gardner said less than 24 hours after Washington fell to the Cleveland Browns, 17-13. "I don't know. I have no clue."

Gardner's choice of attire was appropriate as the Redskins continue to reel from a 1-3 start -- including three consecutive losses -- under coach Joe Gibbs. Although Gibbs is coaching in the NFL for the first time after an 11-year absence, his return was hailed as the boost of adrenaline needed to revive a floundering franchise that has gone through five different coaches since 2000 and been to the playoffs once since 1992.

So far, Gibbs is just as perplexed as his players.

"Everybody right now is going through a tough time," said Gibbs, who won three Super Bowls and is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. "We're all being tested. We're 1-3. It's a tough thing in football when you're going through that."

One of the problems has been the team's offensive woes.

Though Washington's defense has been impressive -- the unit is ranked fourth in the NFL in total defense (253.2 yards a game) and first against the run (59.5 yards a game) -- the team has struggled to mount a cohesive and consistent offensive attack.

Under Gibbs, whose reputation as an offensive guru was surpassed only by his dedication to the game, the offense is ranked 17th, averaging 315.5 yards a game.

The Redskins started six possessions from their 32 yard-line or better Sunday, but each ended with a punt. For the entire game, they converted one of 11 third-down opportunities.

"To me, the goal is to score three touchdowns," said Gibbs, whose team has not done that in a game yet. "If you're not doing that, I kind of look at that as we're not getting the job done. We haven't done that, and that's my responsibility."

The offense has coughed up 10 turnovers, including a fumble apiece by running back Clinton Portis and wide receiver Laveranues Coles on Sunday. Only the Miami Dolphins (14 turnovers) and Oakland Raiders and San Francisco 49ers (11 each) have been more generous in giving away the football.

Things got so bad during the loss to the Browns that Portis claimed afterward that several Cleveland players knew what plays the Redskins were going to run even before the ball was snapped.

Gibbs said the entire offense reviewed game film and could find only two instances where it appeared that Browns players correctly predicted running plays. Gibbs said Washington gained 4 and 8 yards on those plays.

NOTES: Linebacker LaVar Arrington will likely miss Sunday's game against the Ravens as he continues to recover from knee surgery. Linebacker Micheal Barrow sought another opinion on his battle with knee tendinitis. Offensive right tackle Ray Brown is listed as day-to-day with a sore hamstring. ... Gibbs used a portion of his media briefing to criticize communication problems that disrupted his ability to use his headset to talk to quarterback Mark Brunell and his assistant coaches in a booth at Cleveland Browns Stadium for two possessions during the second half. Gibbs said the most galling aspect was that someone from the Browns organization told his assistants at halftime that technical difficulties had occurred in the second half in the past. "To me, that shouldn't be in the NFL. If you're having trouble with communications, you need to fix it," he said. "It's the NFL. Don't throw that on us."

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