- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 1, 2000

If nothing else, the Redskins' 27-21 loss to the Tennessee Titans should calm the local Super Bowl hysteria. The Redskins are a good team, yes, but there are other teams out there that are just as good, if not a touch better. The Redskins face another of those teams in three weeks the St. Louis Rams, possessors of the most potent offense in pro football.

Norv Turner can only hope his players respond as well to this defeat as they did to the loss to Dallas back in September, after which they ran off five straight wins. The Redskins definitely turned it up a notch after the Cowboys caught them napping. They would be wise to do the same thing now, so they can head into the playoffs in a decent mental state.

Anything can still happen in this season. Anything. There are seven games left eight for some clubs and the way players have been getting hurt there's no telling how things are going to turn out. The Rams' defense has been a screen door. The Vikings just got hammered by four touchdowns. The Bucs and Giants have had trouble scoring. Nobody in the NFC looks invincible or even close.

The Redskins are in the same boat with the other contenders impressive in many respects but not all respects. In their case, injuries have eaten away at their offensive line and receiving corps and forced the offense to scramble every week. They were so hurting for wideouts against the Titans that Champ Bailey and Deion Sanders, their two starting cornerbacks, were prevailed upon to run pass routes. When was the last time that happened in an NFL game?

"It's different," Turner says bravely.

The thinned-out offensive line, meanwhile, continues to live almost snap to snap. If one more guy gets carted off, the Redskins may have to start punting on first down. Keith Sims desperately needs more time to rest his aching Achilles' tendon, and he might get it Sunday when the Redskins are at Arizona. That would give him a couple of weeks counting the bye week to rest up for the big game at St. Louis. Sounds like a good plan to me.

The tendency is to think the Redskins' schedule gets a little easier from this point forward. Tampa Bay, Baltimore and Tennessee are behind them, as are road games against the Giants and Philadelphia. Consider this, though: The Redskins still have to play three games on artificial turf St. Louis, Dallas, Pittsburgh and that's not good for some of their older players like Deion, Bruce Smith and still-ailing Darrell Green. Turf is just harder on the legs harder on everything. Think it's a coincidence that two of the Redskins' shakiest games this season have been on the turf at Detroit and Philly?

Throw in the very real possibility that the Redskins might have to play the Rams and Vikings on the road in the playoffs, and you could be looking at five turf games in the next 11 weeks. That's a bunch too many, maybe. I wouldn't want to be Deion's hamstrings in mid-January.

But back to the loss to the Titans and its effect on the Redskins. In the locker room afterward, Jon Jansen said, "There are a lot of things we can point in the game and say, 'If we had that one play back, the game would have gone differently.' And there were, too. Things like Derrick Mason's punt return for a touchdown and Samari Rolle's interception return for a score and the botched snap that forced punter Tommy Barnhardt to run, futilely (and resulted in a Tennessee field goal).

Norv came up with another, less obvious, example: A first down play from the Washington 48 late in the second quarter with his team trailing 10-7. "If we're going to take a shot [downfield] on first down from the 50 [sic]," he said yesterday, "we can't take a sack and wind up second-and 20." Actually, the Redskins wound up second-and-17. But then they gave up another sack to make it third-and-27, and two plays after that was the Barnhardt Disaster.

If Turner is lucky, his team will take from the loss what Jansen did that the Redskins have to start paying more attention to details, even seemingly insignificant ones (such as tackling a defensive back when he's running with the ball). "When you win, it's a lot harder to sell that," Norv said. "Everyone's a lot more forgiving [of mistakes]. But there's no question we'll emphasize this week that one play can have a dramatic effect on a football game.

"You can get away with things over a period of time [pass] protection [breakdowns], mental errors in the running game, late hits on the quarterback, running out of your lane on special teams. But if you continue to make an error like that, it's going to catch up with you" and it did to the Redskins Monday night.

The Redskins have plenty of time to correct their mistakes almost half a season. It's all a matter of attitude. But after Monday night, they had better not need any more reminders.

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