- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 24, 2002

Saving the season isn't proving simple for the Washington Redskins. After making their fourth quarterback swap, tweaking the offense, changing the pass defense and gathering for a closed players-only meeting last week, beating the surging St.Louis Rams today at FedEx Field remains a long shot.
Washington (4-6) trails Atlanta (6-3-1) by 2 games for the last playoff slot with six games remaining. The Redskins also are behind the New York Giants (6-4) and Rams (5-5) after two straight losses. Losing to the Rams would essentially eliminate the Redskins, especially since St.Louis would gain the head-to-head tiebreaker over Washington should the teams finish tied.
"I wouldn't say we're desperate. We definitely need a win," cornerback Champ Bailey said. "[New York] was a tough loss for us [19-17 last Sunday]. It puts us back where we don't want to be, but we can pick it up. If we win out, we'll be fine."
However, the Redskins already have lost needed games this month to Jacksonville 26-7 and New York when a late field goal was blocked. The slight emotional bump, provided by two victories to reach 4-4, has been lost. Some Redskins remember winning five straight last year after an 0-5 start before stumbling to an 8-8 finish. They wonder if closing with five of seven games against NFC East opponents will prove too challenging.
"Our backs were against the wall three weeks ago," running back Stephen Davis said. "It's going to be hard, but it can be done. It's been done before."
St. Louis faces an identical challenge after joining Washington as the only teams ever to win five straight after opening 0-5. The defending NFC champions are ranked No.2 overall offensively and No.3 passing. A possible letdown could be their biggest obstacle.
"If just getting back to .500 was your goal, you'd have to be concerned about that," coach Mike Martz said. "That's never really been our goal. We've got so many other things we'd like to achieve."
Said quarterback Kurt Warner: "We're capable of running off a number of games in a row and beating anybody we step on the field with."
Warner returns as a starter for the first time since he broke a pinkie Oct.6. The two-time NFL Most Valuable Player replaces backup Marc Bulger, who was impressive during the five-game winning streak. Martz is gambling that Warner can find his rhythm without the Rams losing a winnable game.
No matter that Warner has eight interceptions and one touchdown this year with a 66.4 pass rating. The Redskins know he can work the entire field and the Rams can score quickly from anywhere.
"I'm expecting the guy from the Super Bowl team," Bailey said. "I don't care what he's done this season. I love facing guys with a good reputation of throwing the ball up and down the field."
The Redskins expect a shootout against the Rams, who averaged 28.2 points during their winning streak after just 14.8 during the 0-5 start. The Redskins will keep cornerbacks on one assigned receiver for the second straight game, partly because Rams Torry Holt (54 catches) and Isaac Bruce (52) are standouts while Ricky Proehl (23) keeps the three-receiver sets effective.
But it is questionable whether Washington, under quarterback Danny Wuerffel, can jump-start its No.26 offense that's also 26th in passing. The fourth passer change has Wuerffel returning from a sprained shoulder sustained on the opening drive against Tennessee seven weeks ago. Wuerffel has completed only eight of 14 passes in three limited appearances with two interceptions for a 34.5 rating.
Wuerffel was chosen over rookie Patrick Ramsey because of his experience, but Ramsey could still play if Wuerffel stumbles. The Redskins figure to run more often anyway, partly to limit St. Louis' offensive opportunities.


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