Redskins defense chases those elusive turnovers

Unit ranks fifth overall, but has only 2 take-aways

Pro Football

October 11, 2005|By EDWARD LEE | EDWARD LEE,SUN REPORTER

ASHBURN, Va. -- For all of the good numbers the Washington Redskins defense has put up this season, one statistic stands out.

Lack of turnovers.

In four games, Washington (3-1) is fifth in the NFL in yards allowed (282.0 per game), fifth in points surrendered (14.5 per game) and in first downs allowed (14.2 per game).

But the Redskins have forced opposing teams to commit just two turnovers, the second-lowest total in the NFL behind the Houston Texans' none.

Washington has not had a takeaway since the first game. The 1982 Kansas City Chiefs set the league record for fewest takeaways with 12.

"It's disappointing," said defensive end Renaldo Wynn. "We've got to continue to work at that and make this thing happen. ... We've just got to make sure that we get our hands on the ball and continue to try to work at stripping the ball from the running backs and getting those turnovers."

Last season, the Redskins had 26 take-aways and were third in the league in yards allowed under Gregg Williams, the assistant head coach in charge of defense. Williams' disciplined defenses have usually thrived on collecting turnovers, but Williams said last week that opposing offenses have improved at protecting the ball.

"People are not being careless with the football," he said. "You can see that the offensive coaches that we are going up against are really working hard on saying: `Quarterback, don't force throws. Throw the ball away.' ... We are a little bit of a product of our own worst enemy. We are not going to sneak up on anybody."

The Chiefs, Sunday's opponent, have turned the ball over seven times, but coach Dick Vermeil is renowned for his emphasis on protecting the ball. If an opportunity presents itself, safety Matt Bowen said Washington has to take advantage.

"If we're in position to make the play, we need to make it," he said. "We got a couple of opportunities at least three or four times a ballgame. If the ball's up in the air, go get it. Considering how well our offense is playing right now, if we get the ball to [quarterback] Mark [Brunell], [the offense is] going to put points on the board."

And when he throws to Mike Sellers, it's a touchdown.

The sixth-year tight end has two receptions for 6 yards in four games this season, and both were touchdowns, matching his career high. Sellers caught a 4-yard score against the Seattle Seahawks last week and a 2-yard touchdown against the Denver Broncos on Sunday.

Sellers is tied with wide receiver Santana Moss for the team lead in touchdowns.

"Wow, I never thought that would happen," said Sellers, whose best year was 1999, when he caught seven passes for 105 yards. "It's nice. Everybody has an opportunity to score, especially down on the goal line. It's just more of an opportunity for me."

Notes -- Coach Joe Gibbs said he had sent video of several questionable calls in Sunday's 21-19 loss to the Denver Broncos to the league office for review. Although he was particularly displeased with the reversal of a safety under the "tuck rule" and a pass interference call on wide receiver David Patten that wiped out a 38-yard touchdown catch, Gibbs said he wasn't blaming the officials for the loss. "Up here, you've got to focus on what you do," Gibbs said. "We made enough mistakes in there to cost us the game - two field goals, penalties, the turnover and two long runs." ... Head athletic trainer John Burrell said X-rays on cornerback Shawn Springs' bruised shin were negative, but the team was waiting for magnetic resonance imaging exam results. ... Kicker John Hall is seeking a second opinion on his strained quadriceps. ... Cornerback Walt Harris' strained calf is improving, and Burrell said he would participate in limited practice tomorrow. ... Thanks to the 447-yard outburst in Denver, the Redskins offense rose in the league rankings from 14th (340.3-yard average) last week to eighth (367.0). The defense did not budge from its No. 5 position. ... Brunell's 53 pass attempts on Sunday were a career high as well as the most by a Redskin since Trent Green attempted 54 passes in a 45-42 loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Nov. 22, 1998.

edward.lee@baltsun.com

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