- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 22, 2002

The Washington Redskins' week began with a mortifying loss on the regular season's biggest stage. It ends this afternoon with a shot at redemption.
A road game against the talented San Francisco 49ers gives the Redskins an immediate opportunity to forget the 37-7 beating they suffered from the Philadelphia Eagles on "Monday Night Football."
It was a short week, but by its end Washington (1-1) seemed to emerge from the fog of trying to forget Philadelphia and prepare for the 49ers (1-1).
"Everybody still had that feeling in their stomach," wide receiver Rod Gardner said. "Everybody had to get over it. Tuesday, Wednesday were the days to get over it, to understand what happened. That's behind us. We've got to get a 'W.'"
But it won't be easy against a San Francisco team also coming off a loss, 24-14 at home to the Denver Broncos. The 49ers, who narrowly won their opener against the New York Giants, have talented players on both sides of the ball but haven't played to their potential after going 12-4 last season.
Most Redskins believe the quick turnaround actually might be a benefit because the desire to redeem themselves is still so fresh.
"I think it helps because you want to get that bitter taste out of your mouth," defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson said. "We feel like bums right now. We let ourselves down, we let our teammates down, we let everybody down."
After six days of examination, Monday's embarrassment seemingly occurred because the Redskins started buying into their hype. They were tricked into overlooking their shortcomings and got caught up in the celebration of new coach Steve Spurrier, a 4-1 preseason and an opening 31-23 win over the Arizona Cardinals.
But as badly as Monday night shocked and embarrassed them, by week's end they started to realize that it was just one loss. There was even some sense that such a loss might help them recognize their problems more quickly something that didn't happen last year until the club was well on its way to an 0-5 start.
"At this point last year, people were putting us in the grave," linebacker LaVar Arrington said. "We were 0-2. We've been through way worse times than this. We'll be all right. We'll bounce back."
It's especially important that the Redskins do so today because next week is their open date. No team wants to head into its off week on a loss, particularly a second straight whipping.
The team also could be in for changes if it doesn't show dramatic improvement from Monday night. Of greatest significance is the quarterback position, where Shane Matthews struggled and suffered a bruised shoulder and backup Danny Wuerffel fared no better against the Eagles.
This week, top draft pick Patrick Ramsey began taking meaningful snaps outside the scout team and went through after-practice sessions with Spurrier. Although the coach wouldn't say so, another poor performance by Matthews and Wuerffel could have Ramsey cramming during the off week to play Oct.6 at Tennessee.
The chance of Matthews struggling today is heightened by his bruised shoulder either because it limits him (though he practiced fully starting Thursday) or he gets reinjured. Matthews, however, retained his characteristic even keel this week and didn't sound threatened.
"Coach is the guy who makes the decisions," Matthews said. "I can't worry about that. I've got to go out and do my job. I didn't play as well as I'd like Monday night; I don't think anybody on this team did."
Philadelphia limited Washington by playing a conservative scheme and forcing the Redskins to throw against what Matthews considers the best secondary in football. Spurrier's offense generally passes to set up the run, and the Redskins never hit enough deep throws to sustain drives or take pressure off running back Stephen Davis. This week Matthews believes he should be able to hit more of those long tosses.
"We'll play according to how they play us," he said. "They play a lot of man-to-man coverage, which gives us a chance for big plays. The Eagles didn't do that. So we feel like we have a chance for some big plays, and we need to stay on the field as an offense."
Spurrier is putting some pressure on his receivers to play better this week by promising to use reserve Jacquez Green more frequently. Starter Derrius Thompson played well in the opener but had just one catch against the Eagles, and Washington gains deep speed by inserting Green, who had a 90-yard punt return touchdown Monday.
On defense, Wilkinson will play despite a sprained wrist that kept him out of midweek practices and fellow defensive tackle Daryl Gardener will return after sitting out Monday because of his ailing back. With 21 Pro Bowl appearances among its starters, the defense is under pressure it to improve from 21st in yards allowed and tied for 25th in points.
"It's a must," Wilkinson said. "This is a long dance. We are ashamed at how we performed, and we're sorry our fans had to sit in on that."
The 49ers' offensive stars include quarterback Jeff Garcia, wide receiver Terrell Owens and running back Garrison Hearst. Today, as the Redskins try to stop that potent attack and regroup from Monday's defeat, they expect pride to be a factor.
"Why not put your character on the line?" defensive lineman Carl Powell asked. "This is early in the season, but coming off a disappointing game like that, no matter what we've got to go out there and play."

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