- The Washington Times - Monday, October 3, 2005

The Washington Redskins’ offense seemingly has found its identity in coach Joe Gibbs’ 19th game back on the sideline following two quarterback switches, adjustments to the running game and changes at wide receiver and in the offensive line.

Where last season was full of what-ifs, this season’s offense is taking pride in showing it can convert third-down plays and score a touchdown when needed, as demonstrated in Sunday’s 20-17 overtime victory against Seattle.

The Redskins were an impressive 13-for-18 (72 percent) on third down against Seattle as they remained undefeated (3-0) and atop the NFC East. Included were two conversions on third-and-9, three on third-and-10 and two on third-and-13.

“Our third-down [play] was phenomenal,” Gibbs said yesterday at Redskin Park.

But …

“Having said that, we don’t want to be in that many third-and-longs,” he added.

The Redskins rank second in the NFL on third-down conversions (25-for-51 or 49.1 percent). Last season, they converted just 32 percent, 28th in the NFL.

Seattle’s defense entered the game ranked first on third downs and left ranked 18th. Redskins quarterback Mark Brunell was 11-for-16 for 138 yards on third down, and his 102.4 third-down passer rating is fourth in the NFL.

“You’re certainly cognizant of the situation,” he said. “It’s third-and-long, and the odds of converting those are slim. You want to stay out of those situations. About half the time, you’re going to get stuffed. We were really fortunate. Guys made some big plays, and the offensive line protected better this week.”

Receiver Santana Moss had five catches on third down, including receptions of 13 and 30 yards in overtime.

“You win by making those plays and that’s a key part of our success — making plays in critical situations,” Moss said. “For some reason, I’ve never really cared what down it was, but especially during overtime, I said to myself, ‘It’s third down,’ and I knew we needed a big play.”

Injury report

Gibbs said safety Sean Taylor, who missed most of the fourth quarter with a shoulder injury, will play Sunday at Denver, and the padding he will wear on the shoulder will be adjusted.

Gibbs said kicker John Hall (quadriceps) attempted several field goals yesterday and safety Pierson Prioleau (hamstring) continues to improve. Cornerback Walt Harris (calf) did not do any work.

History lesson

Since 1990, 80 percent of teams that started the season 3-0 have made the playoffs. Also undefeated are Indianapolis, Tampa Bay and Cincinnati at 4-0.

The Redskins are 3-0 for the ninth time in franchise history. They won the Super Bowl after 3-0 starts in 1991 and 1982 and reached the playoffs in 1940, 1943, 1971, 1976 and 1986. The only Redskins team to start 3-0 and not make the postseason was the 1978 team that finished 8-8.

Lost challenge

Gibbs, who was 2-for-7 on replay challenges last year, lost his first of the season Sunday. In the second quarter, Gibbs asked officials to review whether Moss’ catch in the left side of the end zone was in bounds. Replays didn’t overrule the call, but Brunell hit Robert Royal for a touchdown five plays later.

Trial postponed

The trial of Charles Caughman, the alleged accomplice of Redskins safety Sean Taylor in an altercation June 1 that led to Taylor’s felony simple assault charge, was continued yesterday until December.

Taylor’s trial, already moved from Sept. 12 to Oct. 24, is expected to be continued until the offseason.

Extra points

The Redskins had 17 penalties in their first two games but only two against Seattle — both for delay of game.

“Last year we had five penalties before [the bye] and 10 penalties after, so there is a normal tendency to be sloppy after having a week off, but we put an emphasis on it,” Gibbs said. …

Seattle had touchdown drives of 85 and 91 yards. The Redskins’ defense gave up only five scoring drives of 80-plus yards all last season. … Gibbs said running backs Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts gained 41 yards after contact against the Seahawks.

Staff writer David Elfin contributed to this article.

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