- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 29, 2000

As crucial mistakes continue to pile up on the Washington Redskins, their Super Bowl expectations fade.

Sunday's 23-20 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles yielded two more big errors a fumbled punt return by wide receiver James Thrash and a botched exchange between center Mark Fischer and quarterback Jeff George.

Each Eagles touchdown was set up by one of the mistakes, continuing a demoralizing trend for the Redskins (7-5), who currently stand outside the playoffs. Their postseason hopes could be dealt a crushing blow Sunday against the New York Giants (8-4).

Washington has given away two scores in each of its losses, thanks to turnovers, poor special teams coverage and blown pass defense. The scores proved pivotal as the five defeats came by a total of 21 points, with the Redskins outgaining their opponents by 446 yards, or 89.2 per game.

"Not taking anything away from the teams that have beat us," wide receiver Irving Fryar said, "but we have made a lot of mistakes in those games, had some turnovers, done some things that are hard to come back from."

An analysis shows the Redskins' mistakes led directly to a pair of scores for the opponent in each loss, like animals being marched two-by-two onto Noah's Ark. Here's how the errors break down:

• Week 2: Detroit 15, Washington 10. Larry Centers' bobbled pass in the second quarter yields Kelvin Pritchett's 78-yard interception return, setting up a Lions field goal. Desmond Howard's 44-yard kickoff return in the third quarter sets up another field goal.

• Week 3: Dallas 27, Washington 21. Sam Shade's blown coverage allows Chris Warren's 76-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter. Darrell Green's blown coverage in the fourth yields Raghib Ismail's 44-yard catch, setting up Jackie Harris' 16-yard touchdown reception.

• Week 9: Tennessee 27, Washington 21. Derrick Mason scores on a 69-yard punt return in the second quarter. Samari Rolle scores on an 81-yard interception return to end the half.

• Week 10: Arizona 16, Washington 15. Stephen Davis' fumble yields Aeneas Williams' 104-yard touchdown return in the first quarter. MarTay Jenkins' 71-yard kickoff return in the third sets up a 7-yard touchdown run by Michael Pittman.

• Week 13: Philadelphia 23, Washington 20. Thrash's fumble sets up Jeff Thomason's 3-yard touchdown catch. The botched exchange by Fischer and George sets up Donovan McNabb's 21-yard scoring run.

The two-by-two pattern works almost perfectly though, for example, an interception by George at Arizona set up a Cardinals field goal. The only field goals counted here were the ones at Detroit, in part because the Lions failed to score a touchdown. Even without Arizona's field goal, the Redskins handed away 61 points 40 more the games' collective margin.

Washington, of course, committed mistakes in its wins, too. But the Redskins managed to get lucky (recovering the kickoff fumble at New York when Mike Sellers bumped into Adrian Murrell), get lucky calls (fumbles by Davis and Deion Sanders were ruled down at Philadelphia) and overcome their errors (Sanders' blown coverage on Jacksonville's R. Jay Soward was lost in Albert Connell's scoring deluge).

The ominous sign is that the mistakes are happening with greater frequency and triggering scores more efficiently. The Redskins have lost three of their past four games, and in those losses the opposition needed just six offensive plays to score six gift touchdowns.

Meanwhile, with Davis (fractured forearm) and Connell (sprained knee) in questionable health, Washington may not be able to outscore its errors and it certainly can't count on getting lucky. Somehow the talented Redskins, with the NFL's seventh-ranked offense and fifth-ranked defense, must stop giving away points.

"It's going to stop one way or another," Centers said with a half-smile. "Either we will be completely out of the playoffs or the season will be over. I don't know. We definitely have to eliminate the mistakes."

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