Redskins hoping offense comes to pass

Team's focus in bye week will be helping air attack catch up with Portis, `D'

October 19, 2004|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

ASHBURN, Va. - They still have yet to show they can move the ball through the air with any consistency, and that continues to eat at their coach.

But as the Washington Redskins head into a bye week after ending a four-game losing streak in Chicago on Sunday, they have won over coach Joe Gibbs in the grittier areas of the game.

Washington has established an identity as a nasty, swarming defensive team. It feels it can bash opponents with a ground game led by running back Clinton Portis. And the Redskins don't mind playing with pain.

Over the next two weeks, Gibbs said the Redskins (2-4) will concentrate on breathing life into their paltry passing game and getting their bruised bodies healthy enough to make a playoff run over the regular season's final 10 games.

"We're looking for a core group of guys we can build around long-term, tough guys who are smart guys," said Gibbs, who will give the team off from Thursday through Sunday. "We had some heroic-type deals [on Sunday], guys who were nicked up but wouldn't come out of the game. We're beat up right now.

"On defense, I can't brag on them enough. We rushed the ball well. This is not a one-game thing [with Portis, who gained 171 yards]. He's an exceptional back, and we're still hoping to do better. I don't think you can afford to be one-dimensional [on offense]. Our passing game needs to step up and make plays."

Gibbs agreed it will be a long, frustrating stretch run if the passing offense fails to improve under quarterback Mark Brunell. The Redskins, who have yet to string together three touchdowns in a game and have produced only eight of them on offense in 2004, remain the 28th-ranked team in the NFL in total offense and passing yards.

Brunell, the lowest-rated and least-accurate passer in the NFC with at least 100 attempts, did manage to throw his fifth touchdown pass of the season in Sunday's 13-10 victory.

But he also could not break Chicago's 25th-ranked defense while throwing for 95 yards and completing eight of 22 attempts. His best weapon at times was the throwaway, which he used often after getting flushed out of the pocket and finding no open receivers. He misfired on a handful of downfield tosses and four of his passes were deflected at the line of scrimmage, one of which was picked off and returned 70 yards for a touchdown.

"I think the reason for [the ineffective air game] was pass protection. We got flushed out of the pocket," Gibbs said. "Sometimes a good decision is to throw the ball away. Mark has been smart. We took a half-dozen shots to get the ball downfield. We didn't hook up."

Said Brunell: "A win is a win. We've got something to build on going into this bye week. We feel good about ourselves."

With high-powered offensive teams such as Green Bay, Pittsburgh, Minnesota and Philadelphia (twice) looming on the schedule, the Redskins had better come up with some punch. In the meantime, they eagerly anticipate getting stronger on defense with the likely return of linebacker LaVar Arrington and end Phillip Daniels.

On Sunday, Washington's defense stuffed Chicago with all kinds of ailing defenders. Right tackle Cornelius Griffin hurt his shoulder but still led the team with eight tackles and two sacks. End Renaldo Wynn pulled a hamstring early and kept going, finishing with four tackles. Cornerback Fred Smoot suffered a stinger in his right shoulder, injured the rotator cuff in his left, yet kept coming back. He finished with six solo tackles.

"I'm glad the bye week is coming right now," Smoot said. "I've got a good feeling I can come back good and healthy. I'm going to Mississippi. I'll let my mom put a little red clay on me."

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