- The Washington Times - Monday, October 11, 2004

QUARTERBACKS

Mark Brunell endured another difficult evening, getting hammered on the game-turning fumble and tossing a lazy duck to Deion Sanders in the third quarter. His 49.1 rating was a season-low. He didn’t read the field well or throw accurately. His one great toss came just before halftime, when he threw across his body to Chris Cooley in the end zone.

RUNNING BACKS

Don’t doubt Clinton Portis is trying, and there are a million theories for his struggles, but this offense won’t go with Portis rushing for 53 yards. Gibbs even shifted the game plan to get Portis some catches and let him make plays in space. It made little impact. Ladell Betts whiffed on Ed Reed on the huge forced fumble/touchdown return in the third quarter.

WIDE RECEIVERS

Laveranues Coles quietly made some plays, his nicest on a third-down throw Deion Sanders should have batted to the ground. Drops continue to plague Rod Gardner — his concentration comes and goes. Taylor Jacobs made a couple catches ahead of James Thrash in three-receiver sets. No one stood out, but a lot of that had to do with Mark Brunell.

TIGHT ENDS

Walter Rasby got smoked by Terrell Suggs in the second quarter, allowing a pile-driving sack. Shortly before that play, Rasby had a great lead block on a receiver screen to Laveranues Coles. Rookie Chris Cooley scored his second touchdown of the season, a contested catch just before halftime.

OFFENSIVE LINE

The line generated far too few holes in the run game and yielded too much pressure. Obviously defenses don’t respect Mark Brunell’s arm and stack the box. Still, this unit doesn’t play with any sense of authority or aggressiveness. Among the few nice plays was a second-quarter run in which Chris Samuels got in front and bodied up Ray Lewis.

DEFENSIVE LINE

The run defense played well for much of the game. Cornelius Griffin continued to shine, shooting into the backfield to take down Jamal Lewis in the second quarter. Joe Salave’a was stout inside and batted down a pass in the first quarter. Demetric Evans helped contain Kyle Boller. The one complaint is pass pressure, which is tough to generate with the four-man rush.

LINEBACKERS

Lemar Marshall seemed to enjoy his best game in place of LaVar Arrington. He made quick tackles in coverage early on and broke through traffic to take down Jamal Lewis in the third quarter. Marcus Washington and Antonio Pierce filled well against the run. Washington was particularly active in the early going. Pierce remains susceptible in coverage.

DEFENSIVE BACKS

Fantastic interception by Todd Franz in the second quarter. The picks by Fred Smoot and Shawn Springs, in contrast, were both gifts. Springs continued to be active at the line of scrimmage. Ryan Clark, who got added playing time thanks to Matt Bowen’s knee injury, came up big in the run game several times. Sean Taylor still hasn’t impressed in regular-season action.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Kick coverage, living on the edge for several weeks, finally surrendered the big one as B.J. Sams torched Washington with a 78-yard punt return in the third quarter. Tom Tupa, who saved a touchdown at Cleveland last week, couldn’t knock Sams out of bounds. Tupa also shanked his second punt. Return man Chad Morton returned from a knee injury but still can’t break a long one.

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