- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 6, 2001

The Nov. 18 game at Denver was a long way off for the Washington Redskins yesterday. Players were thinking more about their third straight victory Sunday's 27-14 win over the Seattle Seahawks the day off it earned them and this week's open date.
"I don't think too many guys are thinking about [Denver] right now," linebacker Kevin Mitchell said. "We're just trying to heal up. But when we get back [for practice] on Wednesday, I think the focus will be on Denver. If we go out and get that victory, that will really give us a big boost. That's a good team."
Mitchell was one of few players at Redskin Park after coach Marty Schottenheimer rewarded the team's performance with a day off. Most of those around were getting injuries inspected, notably linebacker LaVar Arrington, who suffered a high ankle sprain in Sunday's third quarter.
Always a prideful player, Arrington for a second straight day told late-coming fans to root for another team. Washington absorbed much criticism during its 0-5 start, and the second-year linebacker didn't want anyone calling themselves a fan after ripping the Redskins earlier.
He also vowed that Washington, which is 11/2 games behind the Philadelphia Eagles (4-3) in the NFC East, would continue to play with something to prove.
"We're 3-5 now," Arrington said. "I've been saying it all along: We're out to gain respect. We've got a chip on our shoulders and we're going to ride this thing out. People are probably saying, 'They won three straight, but who have they beaten?' That's fine. They can keep saying that. We'll keep going."
Continuing to propel the resurgence is Washington's offense, which was so dismal in the 0-5 start. Thanks mostly to maturing quarterback Tony Banks, the Redskins have averaged 383 yards in their recent victories, more than double the clip (184.6) in the opening five losses.
Sunday's effort, which included 32 carries for 142 yards and a touchdown by running back Stephen Davis, gave the Redskins' offense the final push it needed to escape the NFL's last ranking. Today, finally, Washington (260.5 yards) is No. 30, a spot ahead of the Cleveland Browns (255.1).
"That feels a whole lot better," offensive tackle Chris Samuels said with a laugh. "We haven't improved [that much], but that's a big step for us. For a while we weren't getting anything done offensively. It's kind of tough encouraging the defense all game and we're not doing anything."
Offensive reciprocation has cemented the feeling of trust that Schottenheimer has touted as fundamental to Washington's improvement. The units have begun to trust each other, which has led to less tense play and some good feelings.
"I see a lot of smiles coming out of [the defense] when we're coming off the field after scoring some points," Samuels said. "It feels wonderful, just knowing that we did our job. In the past, we weren't doing anything at all. And I knew a main reason we weren't winning was that the offense wasn't contributing anything."
The offensive turnaround began with an 85-yard touchdown pass from Banks to rookie Rod Gardner in the Week 6 win over the Carolina Panthers. The following week Washington scored on a 31-yard trick-play pass from wide receiver Kevin Lockett to Derrius Thompson and a 76-yard pass from Banks to Michael Westbrook.
Sunday's game plan focused more on underneath routes and the run game but there continued to be moments of creativity. Yesterday Schottenheimer emphasized that the playbook hasn't, despite appearances, expanded much.
"We've added some wrinkles here and there, but nothing dramatically different," Schottenheimer said. "We're just doing it better."
There will be more small adjustments to all areas of the team this week, as coaches use the open date to review the season's first half and figure out what worked and what didn't. Schottenheimer plans to key on better passing on offense, more pass rush on defense and better punt coverage on special teams.
"Overall, we're not going to make a lot of changes," Schottenheimer said. "This week is not about reinventing the wheel. We're going to focus on the details of some of the things we've done so we can do them better."


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