- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 23, 2001

Well, the Redskins have proven they can beat a bad team. And trust me, the Carolina Panthers are a ba-a-a-d team. If Hollywood ever makes another "Death Wish" movie, Chris Weinke Mr. INT in the Red Zone would be perfect for the Charles Bronson part.
Anyway, now that Redskins have shown they can beat a bad team, the next step is to show they can beat a good team and they'll have ample opportunity in the coming weeks. The Giants, Seahawks, Broncos and Eagles, all possible playoff clubs, loom on the horizon, and it's doubtful any of them will blow a two-touchdown lead in the last 10 minutes the way the Panthers did.
In other words, now comes the hard part for the Snydermen. "The Unthinkable," as Marty Schottenheimer termed the prospect of going 0-16, is no longer weighing on their minds a liberating thing to be sure. But if they want to back up all of their coach's talk about the team constantly "improving," if they want to be something other than a David Letterman punch line, it would help if they knocked off an opponent with a pulse.
Don't be deceived by Sunday's 17-14 victory. For most of the afternoon, the Redskins were the same club we'd been seeing all season. The offense failed to score and converted just two of 10 third downs in the first 50 minutes. The defense gave up some yards but did a nice job of keeping Carolina out of the end zone.
But then LaVar Arrington ran an interception back for a touchdown, and the game turned 180 degrees. Happens all the time in the NFL.
Now let's talk about the lengths the Redskins went to to secure this win, this win against a (previously) 1-4 team. For the first time this year, they threw deep several times usually to rookie Rod Gardner. What does this mean? It means they can forget about surprising anybody with the long ball from now on. (Also, it's doubtful Gardner will see as much single coverage the rest of the season as he did against the Panthers. Defensive coordinators may be stubborn, but they're not dumb.)
Another player the Redskins let out of the bag Sunday: Bryan Johnson, their sneaky fast first-year fullback. The second-biggest play in overtime was Johnson's 32-yard catch down the right sideline to the Washington 48. He also had a 15-yard grab for Washington's first first down of the day. Since Johnson had zero receptions in his NFL career before the Carolina game, it's safe to say the Panthers were caught off guard. Rest assured opponents won't be caught off guard again.
Schottenheimer thinks his team's "whole thing so far has been not enough [offensive] opportunities." But that's nonsense. The Redskins have had plenty of offensive opportunities. The problem is that they haven't been able to pick up first downs and hang onto the ball. (Total number of three-and-outs so far: 32 in six games.)
That's why, before Sunday, defenses have concentrated on taking away the big play and forcing Tony Banks and Co. to drive the ball the length of the field, something they've had trouble doing. The last thing you want to do is let the Redskins gain 85 yards in one fell swoop. If you make them nickel and dime it, they'll usually self-destruct as was the case in the third quarter against the Panthers, when they drove to the Carolina 30 and then went backward 28 yards (facemask penalty, holding penalty, 3-yard loss).
"We've got to get better on third down," Tony Banks says. "We still weren't good enough in this game."
You'd better believe it, Tony. And it ain't gonna get any easier now that Gardner and Johnson have been announced to the world.
Let's be honest here. The Redskins are going to have to play a lot more than 12 minutes of inspired football to upset the Giants, Seahawks, Eagles or Broncos. And that's probably where their focus should be at the moment in trying to play four solid quarters instead of one or two. The defense has been making strides, no question about it. But it's been doing it against limited offenses (a Giants offense without Tiki Barber and, for half the game, Ron Dayne; a Cowboys offense directed by neophyte Anthony Wright; a Panthers offense led by the World's Oldest Rookie). Shutting down, say, the Broncos will be a little more complicated.
"We could easily be 3-3 right now," Arrington says. And he's right. The games at New York and Dallas were very winnable. But the Redskins could easily be 0-6 right now, too. And they'll be making a big mistake if they think of Sunday's victory as anything more than the first step along a very long road.

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