- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 28, 2000

The Washington Redskins are done considering a first-round bye in the playoffs or an NFC East title defense, focusing instead on the modest goal of simply reaching the postseason.

That wouldn't happen if the season ended today, despite the Redskins' $100 million payroll. Only six teams from each conference reach the playoffs, and Washington (7-5) ranks seventh in the NFC after losing three of its past four games including a 23-20 decision Sunday to the NFC East-leading Philadelphia Eagles.

"It doesn't matter, because the season doesn't end today," guard Keith Sims said yesterday. "That's what we're lucky about. We've got four more weeks, four more opportunities to put ourselves in the best position possible."

Those chances start Sunday with a crucial game against the New York Giants (8-4), who stand a game ahead of Washington in the NFC East. The Redskins would edge ahead in the playoff race with a win, because they won the Sept. 24 meeting and head-to-head matchups are the first tiebreaker.

But Washington is attempting to ignore the mathematical implications of its game this weekend. More important is a simple return to a level of play that helped it win five straight at one point and beat the St. Louis Rams, the defending Super Bowl champions, on the road just eight days ago.

"I don't want to hear all the tiebreaker scenarios. I don't want to hear anyone talk about, 'If you run the table …,' " coach Norv Turner said. "We need to find a way to beat New York."

Of course, Turner acknowledged that he isn't forgetting that the NFC East title could come down to point differential in division games, because the Redskins and Eagles split their head-to-head matchups and, if Washington wins out, the next three tiebreakers likely would be tied.

Philadelphia, for what it's worth, essentially would end the Redskins' title chances with a win over Tennessee this weekend. In addition, Washington trails in point differential in division games the fifth tiebreaker 42 points to three. That means the Redskins would have to beat New York, Dallas and Arizona by at least 40 points to win the NFC East.

"I don't see [point differential] becoming an issue," Turner said. "If it becomes an issue, certainly I'll be aware of it."

Bentley needs work

Scott Bentley was signed as a kickoff specialist three weeks ago when the Redskins picked up 44-year-old kicker Eddie Murray to replace Kris Heppner. But Bentley's kickoffs averaged only to the 10-yard line Sunday. Although two of the short ones went into a fairly stiff wind, the first (to the 17) did not.

"He did not kick as well as he kicked the week before," Turner said. "He had the one [in the third quarter] that went into the end zone, almost went out of bounds, where he kicked it more like he did last week… . He was getting under it a little bit. He was popping it up, getting good hang time, but the ball was coming down on the 15-, 20-yard-line."

Meanwhile, Turner expressed confidence in Murray, the fourth player to attempt a field goal for the Redskins this season. Murray, after making his first six attempts, missed a 44-yarder to tie Sunday with 1:16 remaining. The attempt was wide-right and perhaps a bit short.

"Eddie thought he would make the kick. I thought he would make the kick. That's why we kicked it," Turner said. "If we went out there in an hour, I think he'd make that kick."

Turner added that Bentley attempts several field goals of more than 50 yards at the end of each practice, to prepare him in case the team needs to try a long one at the end of a half.

Extra points

The Redskins actually may tone down their pass rush the next time they face a mobile quarterback. Washington sacked St. Louis' Trent Green six times on Nov. 20, then yielded 125 yards Sunday to Philadelphia's Donovan McNabb, mostly on scrambles after the pass protection broke down.

"It's not so much the number of guys you're rushing or [which defenders] you're rushing, you just have to be under control [when facing a mobile passer]," Turner said. "If you have to stop and then retrace [your steps] to catch him, you're not going to catch him." …

The Redskins now are just 3-3 at home. Said Turner: "You can't emphasize enough how much winning at home means in this league. The way we've lost games at home, we should be 6-2, 7-1 at home [for the season], no question about that. You look at the teams that win their division, get done what they want to get done, that's what they do."

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