- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Joe Gibbs takes issue with those who believe the Washington Redskins’ season effectively has been over for weeks.

“You talk about the season being over … to me, this is the most important part of the season, these next six games,” the coach said yesterday. “It’s how you finish. We want to finish good. We want to win games down the stretch.”

If the Redskins are to follow Gibbs’ lead and play inspired football through the season’s final month-and-a-half, they will have to shake off the sting of their most lopsided defeat of the year.

Sunday’s 28-6 pounding in Philadelphia left the Redskins (3-7) fuming. Players bristled inside the visitors’ locker room at Lincoln Financial Field, venting about questionable officiating, the Eagles apparently running up the score and Washington’s own offensive ineptitude.

Ultimately, players and coaches said they weren’t so much upset at one particular problem-area as they were fed up with the club’s overall state 10 weeks into the season.

“I think it’s probably mounting frustration,” Gibbs said. “We’re frustrated. Everybody is. It’s a miserable time. No one wants to go through it.”

The Redskins entered Sunday’s game knowing they were about to face their most-daunting task to date — a four-game stretch against the Eagles (9-1), Steelers (9-1), Giants (5-5) and Eagles again.

For three quarters, they appeared up to the challenge. Trailing 14-6, Washington had the ball deep in Philadelphia territory with a golden opportunity to tie the game. But a spate of penalties (two false starts and a holding call) coupled with dropped passes turned first-and-goal at the 10 into fourth-and-goal at the 30.

The lack of fundamentals in such a crucial situation would have been surprising, especially for a Gibbs-coached team, if not for the fact the Redskins have been making these mistakes all year long.

So who’s to blame?

“I take responsibility for all of it,” Gibbs said. “It all rests with me. We don’t have to look real far to find somebody. I’m to blame.”

Responded tackle Ray Brown, who committed one of the false starts: “That’s not the coaches’ problem. I’m sure they want to take the hit for it, but that’s a player problem.”

More specifically, it’s been an offensive player problem. The Redskins committed seven penalties on offense Sunday, five of them false starts. On an offense that ranks last in the NFL in scoring, having failed to crack the 20-point barrier in any game, those mistakes become all the more damaging.

“We’ve been consistently inconsistent,” Brown said. “That means we’re making the same mistakes we made previously. Or we haven’t bought into [Gibbs’ fundamentals-first philosophy]. I don’t know, maybe that’s some of it. We’ll just have to see how these next six weeks play out.”

Washington’s defensive players have made a point not to chastise their teammates on the other side of the ball publicly. Make no mistake, though: There is mounting frustration from Gregg Williams’ unit, which still ranks second in the league, over the offense’s inability to produce points. When Ola Kimrin capped the penalty-laden drive by missing a 48-yard field goal, one prominent defensive player was seen on the sideline slamming his helmet to the ground.

The Redskins defense wilted following the missed field goal, immediately surrendering a long touchdown drive and then allowing the Eagles to run up the score with another touchdown late in the fourth quarter. Then again, considering the job the defense did holding Philadelphia down for three quarters, how much more could anyone ask of the unit?

“We could hold them down for four quarters, I guess,” a dejected Fred Smoot said.

Despite the overall ineffectiveness of the Redskins offense, there were some encouraging signs. Quarterback Patrick Ramsey, making his first start of the year in place of benched veteran Mark Brunell, played a relatively mistake-free game. Ramsey was sacked just once (late in the fourth quarter) and threw one interception (also late and off the hands of teammate Rock Cartwright).

Gibbs continued to speak highly of the 25-year-old quarterback yesterday.

“Patrick managed things very well,” he said. “I think he had real poise in there against a tough defense and in a tough environment. I thought he handled himself real well.”

Ramsey was more concerned about his inability to produce points than about any progress he may have made in Sunday’s game.

“We didn’t do much in the red zone. We weren’t able to score there,” he said. “I think that was the most costly situation for us.”

As they have maintained since making the quarterback switch last week, the Redskins intend to evaluate Ramsey’s collective effort over the next six games before making any judgments about his future with the club.

The same could be said of the entire roster. Gibbs cautioned everyone last summer that this could be a trying season. Now that his worst fears have been realized, the coach wants to see how his players respond to the adversity.

“Did I want this? No,” he said. “Did I think this [would happen]? No. But I also think I was very realistic about it. It can happen to you. What we’ve got to do is fight our way out of it.”

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