- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 7, 2004

The line was buoyed by a figurative pitchfork to the rear by its fiery position coach. The quarterback was following the script, line by line, for how to execute in this scheme. And the running back was bursting through holes, defiantly spinning the ball like a top and “woofing” at defenders.

In short, Sunday was a special day for the Washington Redskins’ offense. The unit burst past the 20-point barrier for the first time all season, scoring more points than it had the previous three weeks combined. By day’s end it had propelled the Redskins to a much-needed 31-7 win over the New York Giants.

Yesterday, as players trickled in and out of Redskin Park on an awarded day off, just one question seemed important: Is such productivity here to stay?

“I think it’s something we can keep up,” offensive tackle Chris Samuels said. “We just need to go out and execute like we did yesterday.”

If only it were so simple. Eleven games passed before the Redskins (4-8) finally established an offensive identity. Sometimes Clinton Portis was the workhorse; other times he barely got the ball. The quarterbacks threw more interceptions (13) than touchdowns (11). And the unit ranked dead last in scoring — even after Sunday’s breakthrough, the Redskins remain a whopping 23 points behind No.31 Arizona.

Making this week’s task even tougher is the opponent, the 11-1 Philadelphia Eagles. On Sunday the Eagles demolished likely playoff participant Green Bay 47-17, and just three weeks ago they put away the Redskins 28-6. Momentum easily could be stifled Sunday night at FedEx Field.

“You obviously would love to be able to [duplicate what happened against the Giants],” coach Joe Gibbs said. “But the problem is that you’re playing Philadelphia and you’re playing some of the people we’ve got on our schedule down the road. [The question is] are you going to be able to do that?”

The formula against New York seemed simple enough. The Redskins established the run with Portis, got quarterback Patrick Ramsey to complete a variety of high-percentage throws and avoid big mistakes and threw in just enough trickery to convert key plays and keep the Giants guessing.

The effort started up front, where play had been erratic this season despite the return of legendary line tutor Joe Bugel. The assistant head coach for offense ranted at his linemen all last week after the Pittsburgh Steelers recorded five sacks and limited Washington to 3.6 yards a rush. The group responded with one its most dominant performances.

“Buges pretty much chewed us out,” Samuels said. “All week, he was motivating, motivating and just pushing guys. He said, ‘I know the season’s going pretty bad right now,’ but he wasn’t going to let us give in to it. He stayed on us all week, and we carried that same mentality over into the game.”

Ramsey, meanwhile, executed the scheme perfectly, hitting 19 of 22 passes for 174 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. After talking at length last week about how he was reining in his “gunslinger” tendencies and conforming to Gibbs’ more conservative expectations, Ramsey demonstrated the benefits of doing so.

“The more I attempt to play in [Gibbs’] manner, the more I like it,” said Ramsey, who has started three straight games. “It’s a lot easier than going back there and trying to make the perfect throw every time. Just to be efficient and try to convert first downs — I’m growing comfortable with it, really.”

The final key to Washington’s big day was Portis, who rushed 31 times for 148 yards. The performance quieted questions about whether Gibbs suddenly had given up on his $50million back in a six-carry, 17-yard afternoon at Pittsburgh.

Portis clearly wanted the ball. Ramsey said he knew Portis was going to have a big day when, after gaining 5 yards and a first down on the Redskins’ second play, he got up and spun the ball on the ground. And Samuels could see Portis’ desire in the way the runner immediately trash-talked Giants defenders.

“He was fired up,” Samuels said. “I saw him on the first two or three runs woofing and talking to the guys. He just kept punishing them all day long.”

Sunday’s blueprint no doubt will be jeopardized by Philadelphia’s rapidly improving run defense and the Eagles’ offensive potency, both of which could force Gibbs out of his comfort zone and into the more aggressive portion of the playbook. Nonetheless, the Redskins are eager to see how they fare against this next, and far more difficult, test.

“You want to see … how we can build upon that and how we can test ourselves against a great team,” Ramsey said. “Like Coach Gibbs always says, that’s the great thing about this. … We have an opportunity to measure ourselves against the standard in the NFC.”

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