- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 7, 2000

It's tough to win when the opposing defense scores as many touchdowns as your offense. It's even more frustrating when that offense was in the red zone six times.
The Washington Redskins scored just one touchdown on their six penetrations of the 20-yard line Sunday after reaching the end zone on 15 of their previous 27 trips inside enemy territory. The result was a stunning 16-15 loss to the last-place Arizona Cardinals.
Redskins coach Norv Turner said the rustiness of quarterback Jeff George, who was seeing his first action of the year in place of the injured Brad Johnson, was only partly to blame. Although trainer Bubba Tyer hasn't ruled Johnson out, George likely will start again when Washington returns from its bye week to visit Super Bowl champion St. Louis on Nov. 20.
"Jeff had a couple of throws that he felt he could have made better," Turner said. "We had a route we could have run better. Jeff could have run for a first down. Arizona hit us with some run stunts, got us into third-and-4, third-and-5 situations. Arizona was trying to get it down to one play. If they win that situation, they hold us to a field goal."
But the most conspicuous red zone failure was Stephen Davis' fumble at the goal line in the first quarter. Not only did the Redskins lose a sure seven points when the ball came out, but the gaffe became a 14-point turnaround when Cardinals cornerback Aeneas Williams picked up the ball and raced an NFL-record 104 yards to the end zone.
"Obviously, Stephen relaxed," said Turner, who called Davis one of the most reliable goal-line runners he has seen.
"I had it in one hand [instead of two]," Davis admitted. "I was trying to make the extra yard. It's something I work on every day. This [loss] bothers me a lot because [that] play gave them points."
What killed the Redskins for the second straight week was big plays. Williams' score mirrored the 81-yard interception return for a touchdown by Tennessee's Samari Rolle on Oct. 29, and MarTay Jenkins' 71-yard kickoff return that set up Arizona's lone touchdown was similar to Derrick Mason's 69-yard punt return for a touchdown in the Titans' 27-21 victory. Kris Heppner's missed 33-yard field goal attempt cost the rookie kicker his job. And Joe Zelenka had a bad snap for a second straight game, this one botching an extra point try.
"We've slipped on special teams the last two weeks," Turner said. "During our five-game win streak that was one of our strengths, especially our coverage units. I'm going to look at each guy's effort, the way we're practicing and make sure they understand their roles."
It hasn't helped that coverage standout Eddie Mason has been starting in relief of injured linebacker Shawn Barber the last two games, although Barber's expected to be ready for the Rams.
"Guys [can't] think that somebody else is going to be making the play," special teams coach LeCharls McDaniel said. "They've got to go make it. It's a little bit of people trying to do too much and … a lot of people [not] putting forth the effort. Maybe people might have thought we can just go out there and it will happen."
Despite gaining a season-high 431 yards and giving up just 178, their fewest in 16 games dating to Dec. 12, the Redskins have gone from a comfortable perch atop the NFC East just nine days ago to 1* games behind the division-leading New York Giants. Washington's tied with Philadelphia for the final two NFC playoff spots, just a half-game ahead of Detroit and Tampa Bay. If the Lions win at Atlanta and the Buccaneers beat visiting Green Bay on Sunday, both teams with jump ahead of the Redskins in the standings.
"We're a lot better team than we've been the last two weeks," Turner said. [But] if you make the kind of errors we made, it doesn't matter who you're playing. It catches up to you."

Notes Davis, who played with a cast covering a broken thumb in 1997, will face the Rams with plenty of tape protecting the right wrist he sprained late in the third quarter Sunday. Cornerback Darrell Green, who started every game from 1993 to '99, likely won't practice this week after sitting out the past three games with a strained calf and is questionable against the Rams.

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