- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 16, 2005

The Washington Redskins can kind of live with not getting sacks or producing turnovers if they’re forcing punts and the team is winning, as in the first three games of the season.

But giving up big runs, long drives and still not posting sacks or turnovers — and then losing? That makes for a rather tense week in the meeting rooms and offices of the Redskins’ defensive coaches.

Falling from fifth to 15th in NFL rushing defense will do that. Just don’t ask if they’re concerned because Seattle’s Shaun Alexander rushed for 87 second-half yards and Denver’s Tatum Bell gained 127 last week, including touchdowns of 34 and 55 yards.

“I don’t think concern is the right word,” safety Matt Bowen said. “We just have to be a better tackling team and play our best game to compete. That’s the bottom line.”

The bottom line today at Arrowhead Stadium when the Redskins face the Kansas City Chiefs is whether the mistakes that haunted the defense against Seattle and Denver have been rectified.

If they have, the Redskins stand a good chance of heading home with a 4-1 record and a date with weak San Francisco next week because Washington’s offense is improving and Kansas City’s defense is awful. If they haven’t, the Chiefs’ running duo of Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson could have a big day.

“Everybody has a chip on their shoulder and wants to go back out there because [the last two games] aren’t representative of us and how we play defense,” defensive end Renaldo Wynn said.

How the Redskins play defense under Gregg Williams is stuffing the run game. In the wins over Chicago and Dallas, and during the first half against Seattle, they didn’t allow a gain of more than 11 yards, forced 16 punts and allowed only two touchdowns.

In their last three halves, the Redskins have allowed five touchdowns and drives of 85, 91, 78 and 60 yards. Granted, they did force Denver into five straight three-and-outs, but as safety Ryan Clark said: “The offense has put us on their shoulders lately.”

Said Williams: “We made a couple of mistakes at the end of the Denver game that cost us the game and from that part of it, it’s hard to stomach. But we have to get on to the next game, and the best way to do that is put that loss behind us.”

Facing Williams’ crew is a Chiefs offense that he calls a “heavy, heavy test.” Holmes and Johnson have rushed for 305 and 198 yards, respectively. Former Redskins quarterback Trent Green can still play lights out, and tight end Tony Gonzalez is simply the best in the league. Kansas City coach Dick Vermeil has said the plan is to play Holmes for two series and then Johnson for one.

“They have different styles but their effectiveness and production have been outstanding,” Williams said. “[Johnson] is a young player who has taken awhile to get his feet wet, but he’s come on with a splash. And Priest Holmes is one of the finest backs in the NFL. He runs tough and smells the goal line when he gets in the red zone.”

Meanwhile, Redskins running back Clinton Portis has no touchdowns in 83 carries this season, but in his last game against the Chiefs — with Denver in 2003 — he scored five times.

“I’m more concerned with winning this game than my personal stats,” Portis said. “It’s going to be fun going back. That was one of the more exciting games I’ve had in my career.”

Kansas City has revamped its defense since Portis ran all over it in 2003, but the results have been similar. Even with the additions of Kendrell Bell and Derrick Johnson at linebacker and Pro Bowl selection Patrick Surtain at cornerback, the Chiefs have struggled. They’re 27th in the NFL, allowing 367.8 yards a game.

With a Chiefs offense that has put up prolific numbers, a Redskins offense that gained 447 yards and had 28 first downs at Denver and two defenses that have given up big plays in recent weeks, it should be interesting game for Vermeil and Redskins coach Joe Gibbs, who are facing each other for the first time since 1982.

Both are grandfathers and Super Bowl winners who left the NFL only to be lured back. Vermeil came back in 1999 after 17 seasons out of the league, and Gibbs returned to the Redskins last season after 11 seasons away.

“I would have never guessed it, believe me,” Vermeil said. “I think it’s great, to be honest, because neither of us would still be doing this if we didn’t enjoy it.”

Gibbs is 3-1 against Vermeil, but the Redskins’ three wins came by a combined nine points.

“He’s one of the best organized people I’ve been around,” Gibbs said. “He’s extremely competitive, and the games we’ve coached against each other when he was in Philly were always hard fought.”

Note — The Redskins signed defensive back Dimitri Patterson from the practice squad and waived linebacker Zak Keasey. The Patterson-Keasey swap also was made before the Seattle game two weeks ago.

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