- The Washington Times - Monday, October 4, 2004

CLEVELAND — Like a low-budget cable access station, the Washington Redskins continue to have technical difficulties.

One week after dealing with clock mismanagement issues in a loss to the Dallas Cowboys, the Redskins again found themselves burning timeouts in yesterday’s 17-13 loss to the Cleveland Browns.

This time, coach Joe Gibbs attributed some of the problems to his team’s malfunctioning communications system. For a period during the third quarter, Gibbs said his headset connection with quarterback Mark Brunell went dead, as did the team’s phone lines to the coaches’ booth.

Unable to talk to Brunell through his headset, Gibbs was forced to send in plays through hand-signals, and the delays associated with that archaic method forced Brunell to burn the Redskins’ second timeout with 8:01 remaining in the third quarter.

Gibbs, who had been warned before the game that the system might go on the fritz, was upset afterward that game officials didn’t force the Browns to turn off their communications system.

“They said if you lose communication with your quarterback, that’s not enough, which I understood,” Gibbs said. “But then I explained to him it’s going in and out upstairs. These situations just happen. It didn’t cost us the game, but it was a little disconcerting.”

The Redskins already had used their first timeout on the initial play of the third quarter, when Gibbs unsuccessfully challenged a Clinton Portis fumble. It was the second straight week in which Gibbs lost a challenge, costing him a timeout.

“You’re making your best guess on those things,” said Gibbs, who hired former NFL replay official Larry Hill to advise him on such matters. “That’s not an exact science. You’re trying to get a replay upstairs that shows you something, but sometimes you don’t get it.”

Coles not happy

Wide receiver Laveranues Coles rebounded from a rough game last week to catch a team-high seven passes for 122 yards, but he wasn’t satisfied with his performance, especially his fumble with two minutes to play.

“When guys like myself are who the team depends on to make plays and do not come through, I think that is a problem,” said Coles, who dislocated a finger in the Dallas loss and struggled to hold onto the ball. “We have a lot of guys we are depending on, and when we do not make plays, that is costing us the game.”

Coles was particularly down on himself for his fourth-quarter fumble, which quashed any hopes of a Redskins’ comeback.

“I basically fumbled the ball away,” he said. “I fumbled the game away for us.”

Fumble woes

Running back Clinton Portis lost the handle again and permitted a struggling opponent to get back in the game.

Portis’ third fumble of the season occurred on the first play of the second half. Defensive tackle Michael Myers wrenched Portis to the ground on a run to the right side, and the ball slipped loose as Portis rolled over.

The Browns, who generated just 97 yards in the first half, recovered the fumble at Washington’s 31 and scored their first touchdown four plays later.

The error came just two weeks after Portis, usually reliable, had a pair of fumbles against the New York Giants.

“If anything, I think I lost this game today,” Portis said. “We have three losses, and in two of them I pretty much stunk it up.”

Portis, whose Week 2 fumbles were his first in a regular-season game since Oct.12, 2003, viewed the errors against the Giants as an aberration. A few days after that game, he said “we don’t need to do extra stuff” to correct the turnovers and he called his turnovers “fluke fumbles.” Yesterday his tone changed.

“Obviously the answers I thought I had, haven’t stopped it yet,” Portis said. “I can’t turn the ball over. That’s not what I was brought here for. People are depending on me, and I’ve got to step up to the plate.”

Change at right tackle

Kenyatta Jones was the right tackle on an offensive line that held Tampa Bay sackless in Washington’s opening 16-10 victory. But Jones was replaced by 41-year-old Ray Brown the following week against the New York Giants, then against Dallas and yesterday as well.

Whether the cause for the switch was Jones’ somewhat tender ankle or line coach Joe Bugel’s preference for a player he first coached 15 seasons ago, the change hasn’t seemed to help the Redskins, who allowed nine sacks combined against New York and Dallas. Brown was at fault in two of those sacks.

Brown, a guard for most of his 18-year career, strained his left hamstring just before halftime yesterday and was replaced by Jones midway through the third quarter.

“It was loose for a while and then it just tightened up in the third quarter,” Brown said. “I told them I had to come out.”

Jones, who had spent the first half with a baseball cap on his head and a towel around his neck, didn’t look particularly rusty once he returned to action.

“I wasn’t anticipating playing unless someone got hurt, but it was cool going back in,” Jones said.

The offensive line got back on track with its pass protection and didn’t allow a sack yesterday.

Battle of old friends

Happy-go-lucky and funny defensive end Kenard Lang was a popular figure in Washington from 1997 to 2001 before he signed as a free agent with Cleveland. Redskins offensive tackle Chris Samuels enjoyed his practice battles with Lang and their locker room banter.

The old friends reunited yesterday, and while Lang didn’t add to his AFC-leading four sacks, he did pressure Washington quarterback Mark Brunell midway through the fourth quarter and knocked down a Brunell pass on the next play to stop a Redskins drive. The Redskins didn’t get the ball back until 2:15 to go and the Browns hung on for the victory.

“Kenard got me on a couple of plays, but overall, I thought I did fine,” Samuels said. “He kept saying, ‘What’s up Chrissy?’ No one else calls me Chrissy. I just laughed. Kenard was a good player for us. We miss him.”

Suggs returns

Former Virginia Tech star Lee Suggs, who was impressive late in his rookie year for the Browns last season, missed Cleveland’s first three games with an injured shoulder. But he looked to be 100 percent yesterday when he raced for 25 yards on his first carry of the season. He finished with 82 yards and the winning 3-yard touchdown on 22 carries.

“Lee did a great job finding the creases,” Browns quarterback Jeff Garcia said. “It’s exciting to finally have our backfield at full strength.”

Evans, Warner stand out

Defensive end Phillip Daniels’ groin injury hasn’t hurt Washington nearly as much as expected, thanks largely to the solid contributions from inexperienced ends Ron Warner and Demetric Evans.

Both came up big against the Browns, each recording a sack and contributing to a defensive performance that was stifling through much of the first three quarters.

“Coach [Gregg] Williams stresses that we don’t have backups,” Warner said. “Everybody that’s on this team is a starter. We’re here to play and we play.”

Evans’ play is particularly impressive considering he spent the spring in NFL Europe. Most players who participate in the developmental league are spent by the time they get through training camp. But not Evans, who noted his stamina remains high because he spent 2003 out of the NFL.

“I feel pretty good,” Evans said. “NFL Europe was more just me getting over there, getting reps after sitting out the whole season the year before.”

Inactives

Return man Chad Morton held out hope of playing until the pregame. Morton, who sprained a knee on a hard third-quarter hit in last week’s loss to Dallas, hoped to be active despite barely practicing in the days leading up to the Browns game.

Most of Washington’s other inactives were injured players: safety Andre Lott (hamstring), linebacker Mike Barrow (knee), linebacker LaVar Arrington (knee) and defensive end Phillip Daniels. The other two inactives were tight end Robert Royal, who was replaced by Brian Kozlowski, and rookie offensive lineman Mark Wilson.

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