- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 12, 2002

Coach Steve Spurrier yesterday continued to take much of the blame for the Washington Redskins' poor offensive showing at Jacksonville, reiterating to players in a meeting and then to media in a news conference that he called too many pass plays.

The Redskins ran just 16 times to 51 passes in Sunday's 26-7 loss to the Jaguars, who had lost four straight and ranked 26th against the run. The defeat sparked questions about Spurrier while denting the playoff hopes of Washington (4-5) heading into Sunday's game against the New York Giants (5-4) at the Meadowlands.

Spurrier gave a variety of reasons for his pass-heavy play-calling including game circumstances, nice weather, some discouraging runs to start the second half and overconfidence in the pass game but he emphasized that he doesn't intend to be so unbalanced in the season's final seven games.

"It all added up to a whole bunch of passes and not many runs," Spurrier said. "And we're going to try to hopefully not get in that ratio again."

The balance of runs and passes has been a big topic for several weeks now. Spurrier began to shift away from the pass, the foundation of the Fun 'n' Gun scheme he made famous at Florida, in the Oct.20 loss at Green Bay. That competitive defeat opened a three-game stretch in which more runs than passes were called in each contest.

But quarterback Shane Matthews completed just 10 throws in the Nov.3 win at Seattle, a victory Spurrier seemed strangely unable to enjoy. He later admitted he holds his passing game to a higher standard than simple wins and losses, and he seemed determined to revive it even though Washington scored a pair of ugly wins to position itself for a run at the postseason.

Now, after Sunday's problems, he is backing off some of his dedication to the pass.

"Obviously sometimes I have more confidence in our passing attack than I should have," Spurrier said. "I've seen our guys throw and catch it in practice pretty well, and we've seen the coverages they're running, and we think we've got some pretty good plays on. But we're not quite hitting. So maybe I need to temper my confidence in the way we can throw and catch at times."

But he disputed a theory that was pervasive in reports following Sunday's game: That he wanted to show off his passing prowess while playing deep in Gators country, just 75 miles from Florida's home in Gainesville.

"No, no. I don't think that had anything to do with it," Spurrier said.

And he shot down the notion that opposing defenses are making mid-game adjustments to stop his offense. Washington went scoreless after a touchdown on Sunday's opening series; for the season, excluding the wins over Arizona and Tennessee, the Redskins have scored just 12 second-half points. And overall they are on pace for just 96 points after halftime less than the club's 142 in the oft-dismal offense of Jimmy Raye last season.

"They're playing the same defenses in the first half and the second half," Spurrier said. "We just didn't get it done. That's all you can say."

The Redskins opened the game fairly balanced, driving for a touchdown on their initial series and running four straight times early on their second possession.

But following those runs, Spurrier called 18 passes in 20 opportunities to end the first half even though the Redskins still led 7-0 when the stretch began and didn't trail by more than a touchdown until 2½ minutes remained in the third quarter.

At least Spurrier seemed to win respect from his players by acknowledging his mistake to open yesterday's team meeting.

"I think that's a good quality in a person, not just a coach," tight end Walter Rasby said. "If you feel like you have a responsibility to yourself and other people and you tell everybody, 'I didn't live up to that responsibility,' that's a great quality."

Another of Spurrier's traits one he seems to have developed in recent weeks is a bit of patience. Although Matthews hasn't performed well since the Oct.27 win over Indianapolis, the coach is sticking with his passer.

That said, his support of Matthews isn't emphatic, and he declined to evaluate Matthews' performance. Propping up his apparent confidence might be the still-strained shoulder of Danny Wuerffel, which appears at least one more week from allowing him to play.

Regardless, there is growing optimism that running back Stephen Davis (knee) will return to the lineup at New York after missing two straight games. For that reason, and Spurrier's new promise to be balanced, Washington at least should have its run game in order as it begins playing out a string of crucial games.

"It's pretty close to a must-win situation if we have any hopes of making the playoffs which we do," Spurrier said. "We feel like we can play with everybody."

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