- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 9, 2001

Washington Redskins coach Marty Schottenheimer is ready to "Believe in Stephen."
Running back Stephen Davis, little used in Sunday's loss to the New York Giants, will get the ball more often against the Dallas Cowboys on Monday as the Redskins try to get their badly struggling offense on track.
Schottenheimer conceded yesterday that the Redskins should have used the two-time 1,000-yard runner more in their 23-9 loss to the Giants. The Redskins (0-4) were forced by double-digit deficits to shelve the running game in favor of the pass in their first three losses, all blowouts. However, Davis carried the ball only twice in the second half against the Giants and a season-low 12 times overall even though the score was tied 9-9 in the fourth quarter.
"We ran the ball effectively against a nine-man front at Kansas City, and we ran decent early on [against New York]," Schottenheimer said. "But you get a three-and-out and a three-and-out, and all of a sudden your runs don't get anything. Having said that, we need to give him the ball more. There's no doubt about that, particularly in games like that."
Davis, who is seeking to become the first Redskin to rush for 1,000 yards in three straight seasons, has only 219 yards on 52 carries this season. Davis carried the ball 14 times against San Diego and 13 each against Green Bay and Kansas City. Davis had been the offensive focus in the past two seasons, gaining a team-record 1,405 yards in 1999 when the "Believe in Stephen" campaign carried the Redskins to the NFC East title and a first-round playoff victory. Davis followed with 1,318 yards last season and was selected to his second straight Pro Bowl.
Davis still leads the Redskins with 33 percent of "touches" on offensive plays, including 10 receptions for 49 yards. Receivers Rod Gardner (18 percent) and Michael Westbrook (15 percent) combine for as many touches as Davis gets. Still, Schottenheimer said Davis should be used far more often.
"You'd like to think being a one-back team, he would touch the ball 50 percent of the time, and yet the point differentials in the games have dictated more throwing than we would like," Schottenheimer said. "But in a tight game we need to run the ball. I know what happens to the guy calling plays. He thinks we're getting zero and zero [on running plays and passes instead]."
Indeed, all three of Davis' second-half touches gained no yards. He carried on the first play of the third quarter, the second play of the fourth quarter and caught a pass with 4:44 remaining. Meanwhile, quarterback Tony Banks completed 8 of 21 passes for 119 yards, with a large chunk on a 52-yard reception to Gardner. Banks completed 5 of 10 for just 32 yards in the first half.
Still, Schottenheimer second-guessed the playcalling that used Davis so little in the second half against the Giants. Davis gained 39 yards on 10 carries in the first half, when the Redskins trailed the Giants only 16:44 to 13:16 in possession time. However, New York controlled the second half 21:37 to 8:23 as Washington converted its only third down of 13 during the game.
"If you're not sustaining drives you're not able to get into the playbook and come back to some plays that we run well," Banks said. "You can't run on third and long."
Davis has lobbied Schottenheimer for an increased role. Indeed, Schottenheimer said Davis is the best running back he has coached in 16 years. Davis regularly improves as the game progresses into the fourth quarter. The bruising, straight-ahead runner wears down opposing defensive players, as do many successful backs.
Now he'll get a chance to do it again.
Notes Center Mark Fischer could miss his second game after suffering a sprained knee on Oct. 4. Safety Martavius Houston was released after defensive end Dorian Boose returned from a one-game suspension for fighting at Green Bay on Sept. 15. Players are off today and tomorrow because of the Monday night schedule.
* Staff writer Jody Foldesy contributed to this story.

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