Redskins remain focused

Still in hunt, 6-6 team turns to Cardinals after breaking three-game skid against Rams

Pro Football

December 06, 2005|By EDWARD LEE | EDWARD LEE,SUN REPORTER

ASHBURN, Va. -- Maybe it was the threat of six inches of snow that never materialized. Maybe it was the long flight from St. Louis. Or maybe it was the realization that the prize is still out of reach.

Whatever the reason, the Washington Redskins put aside the euphoria of ending a three-game losing skid with Sunday's 24-9 victory over the St. Louis Rams and returned to the business of focusing on their next opponent, the Arizona Cardinals.

"There's no grace period," said defensive tackle Ryan Boschetti, one of the few players to show up at Redskins Park after coach Joe Gibbs gave players the day off. "There's no riding around saying, `Hey, we won.' We've got to get right to Arizona. We've had tough breaks this year, but you've got to win in November and December. That's it. We've got to win Sunday. We've got to win against the Cardinals."

Gibbs took a brief moment to relish the win after watching the team lose leads in the past three losses.

"I think it's an emotional lift. I think you kind of get farther away from those three tough weeks," he said. "I think what's important for us though is that it's one game. [Now] it's the Cardinals. That's all we need to look at, that's all we need to be focused on. There's nothing else that we're even going to be talking about."

At 6-6, Washington has a mathematical shot at securing the franchise's first postseason bid since 1999. The team is ninth in the NFC behind the four division leaders and wild-card contenders Tampa Bay (8-4), Dallas (7-5), Atlanta (7-5) and Minnesota (7-5).

The Buccaneers are not only two games ahead of the Redskins, but they also own the first tiebreaker, a 36-35 win Nov. 13.

Washington owns a tiebreaker over Dallas because of the Redskins' 14-13 victory Sept. 19, though the teams will meet again. If Washington tied either Atlanta or Minnesota for a wild-card spot, the Redskins' .750 winning percentage against NFC opponents would give them the nod over the Falcons (.500 winning percentage in the NFC) and the Vikings (.600).

Sunday's win against St. Louis (5-7) revived memories of the power running game popularized by Gibbs during his first run in Washington.

With Clinton Portis rushing for 136 yards on 27 carries and Rock Cartwright 118 on nine attempts, the Redskins gained a season-high 257 of their total 407 yards on the ground against a Rams defense that ranked 27th against the run before Sunday.

Washington hadn't had two running backs each rush for 100 yards since Ladell Betts and Kenny Watson posted 100 each on the Houston Texans in 2002.

For the season, the Redskins are 5-1 when more running plays are called than passing plays or the balance between the two is equal.

"What we're truly trying to do is not as much just to run the football but you want to be balanced in your approach," Gibbs said. "But you've got to be able to rush the football and make yards to get the passing balance."

Sunday's game against a Cardinals squad (4-8) that boasts the league's top-ranked passing attack behind Comeback Player of the Year candidate and quarterback Kurt Warner and has won two of its past three games looms as a significant test for Washington, which is just 2-4 on the road this season.

Then again, as the players said, every game for the rest of the season is important.

"Yesterday was a good start, but you've got to keep moving forward and hopefully we can use this as a building block to let everybody know that we can do this and that we can finish teams," Cartwright said. "I think guys are real confident right now with the way we played yesterday. Hopefully, we can keep that up."

Notes -- Director of sports medicine Bubba Tyer said defensive tackle Joe Salave'a (torn plantar fascia) and wide receiver James Thrash (pulled hamstring) are doubtful to play against Arizona on Sunday. Defensive tackle Cedric Killings (strained groin) also could sit out. Tyer said the prospects for Portis (bruised shin), linebacker LaVar Arrington (bruised thigh), safety Ryan Clark (sprained ankle) and cornerback Ade Jimoh (bruised shin) are brighter. Tyer also said running back Betts, who has missed the past three games with a sprained knee, should return to practice tomorrow.

edward.lee@baltsun.com

Redskins @Cardinals Sunday, 4:05 p.m., Ch. 5, 1430 AM, 106.7 FM Line: Redskins by 3 1/2

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