- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 27, 2002

It's time for the Washington Redskins to become unpredictable.
After stumbling to a 2-4 start with no surprising outcomes, the Redskins face the visiting Indianapolis Colts (4-2) tonight in the first of four straight toss-up games. Washington then travels to Seattle, Jacksonville and the New York Giants in successive winnable outings. Either the Redskins go at least 3-1 over the next month, or their postseason chances will be slim.
"It's a time when teams like us make a little run win two, three, four and you're right back into it," quarterback Shane Matthews said. "Everybody in this locker room is frustrated. We felt at the beginning of the year we were going to have a good team, and we still can. If we can win a couple of a row, we can build on something."
Said cornerback Darrell Green: "We have got to get it done this week. This week we have to do something we haven't done, which is put it all together."
The Redskins are 1-2 at FedEx Field. And they haven't been particularly good at home 24-18-1 since moving from RFK Stadium in 1997. Maybe that's why the team planned a homecoming of sorts for the nationally televised game. The Redskins' 70th anniversary team will cap three days of activities with a halftime ceremony.
Coach Steve Spurrier said he doesn't plan to invite any of the honorees into the locker room for a pregame pep talk, though. The home losses have particularly bothered the first-year coach, and he decided to downplay emotional ploys over the past week.
"I've been talking about trying to play well at home, and it hasn't done any good," Spurrier said. "I've decided to try not to talk about it this week and go play. Talking about it hasn't helped."
The night's loudest cheers may come while the Redskins are in the locker room. John Riggins, Sonny Jurgensen, Billy Kilmer and Bobby Mitchell are among the honorees along with Green, who's the only active player among the 70.
Green dismissed the idea that current players will get an emotional bump from the retired stars. Many players have conceded not knowing many of the old-timers. Still, they expect the crowd will be charged.
"The reality of it is it's not for the players but for the fans," Green said. "It's for those who grew up with this team. I've signed autographs for a little boy whose father and grandfather saw me in my early years."
Three games after being benched, Matthews will return as the starter behind a patchwork offensive line that probably will be without injured left tackle Chris Samuels and right guard Brenden Stai. The 23rd-ranked offense struggled with nine turnovers and 13 sacks combined in their last two losses, prompting Matthews' re-emergence.
Matthews was demoted for throwing dump-off passes under pressure instead of waiting for downfield opportunities to develop. But after last Sunday's 30-9 loss to Green Bay, Spurrier seems willing to scale back. Matthews isn't elusive, but he knows how to avoid negative-yardage plays. Although Indianapolis' run defense is ranked 30th, the Colts still have a persistent pass rush.
"It's going to be important for me to move around in the pocket," Matthews said. "We're going to have to keep them off balance by running the ball. We should be able to pick our spots as to where to throw it and when to throw it."
The Redskins figure to rely more on running back Stephen Davis after his 24-carry, 91-yard effort against Green Bay, with 32 more yards negated by penalties. The Redskins ran on 34 of 58 plays, the first time they rushed more than passed this season. Guard Tre Johnson, who re-signed Monday after playing last year for Cleveland, should get significant time. Davis said Johnson was the best of the Redskins' 16 guards he has played with since 1996.
Defensively, the Redskins again face a multidimensional offense featuring quarterback Peyton Manning, running back Edgerrin James and receiver Marvin Harrison. Indianapolis' 11th-ranked offense is fourth passing and 25th running, but James' 170-yard average against NFC teams is the best among active AFC players with more than five games. Harrison leads the NFL with 52 catches and is second with 659 yards.
"Harrison's quickness gets him open when you think he can't," cornerback Champ Bailey said.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide