- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 6, 2009

They see the opportunity presented in the next two weeks - a pair of games against winless teams.

But more importantly, the Washington Redskins know what lies ahead - undefeated Denver and New Orleans and division games against Philadelphia (twice) and Dallas.

“We know what our schedule looks like, and we need to win right now,” safety Reed Doughty said.

Right now the Redskins are 2-2 after the opening quarter of the season, tied with the Cowboys in the NFC East and looking up at the New York Giants (4-0) and Philadelphia Eagles (2-1).

Coach Jim Zorn gave the players Monday off following their 16-13 come-from-behind win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, providing them a chance to reflect on the unlikely road to this point. The narrow win over St. Louis. The dismal defeat in Detroit. And the win over the Bucs despite four turnovers.

“We still have things we need to improve on, and as we go back to work, every game is a whole [new] scenario in itself,” Zorn said. “We would love to build on the things we did well. We would love to eliminate the things we did not do well.”

Zorn divides the season into four-game segments, and the Redskins hope the moxie shown by quarterback Jason Campbell, who rebounded from three first-half turnovers to throw two third-quarter touchdowns, and a lock-down defensive performance can lead to a winning streak.

The Redskins haven’t won consecutive games since Oct. 19 and 26 last season.

“The win has put us in a good position to get things jump-started,” center Casey Rabach said. “If our defense plays like that and we eliminate turnovers, it could definitely be a turning point for us.”

Said Zorn: “The next four games, we have to continue to push and have more consistency on offense and keep things the way they are on defense.”

This week’s game at Carolina (0-3) and the Oct. 18 home date with Kansas City (0-4) end the softest part of the Redskins’ schedule. While the Chiefs may be the NFL’s worst team, the Panthers will be coming off their bye and playing for their season.

Things get tougher starting in Week 7: vs. Philadelphia, at Atlanta, vs. Denver, at Dallas, at Philadelphia and vs. New Orleans.

One reason for optimism is the Redskins’ defense figured out its third-down troubles against Tampa Bay and turned in its best performance of the year. Despite its early struggles, Washington is tied for fourth in the NFL in fewest points allowed.

That puts all the focus, as usual, on the offense.

The Redskins haven’t scored more than 17 points in a game, and while they rank a misleading 16th in yards, they are among the NFL’s worst in scoring (27th), red-zone efficiency (27th), goal-to-goal conversion (last) and time of possession (25th).

“I think we’re doing some things good,” Rabach said. “We finally scored in the red zone [Sunday] - hallelujah, thank goodness for that one. We have a long ways to go, no doubt about it. But I think we’re progressing.”

Said receiver Santana Moss: “We have a lot of things to improve on. I can’t say we’re not getting better - we are, but it may not look that way by the way we’re playing sometimes. There are some things you see on film that we’re doing better as a whole. Now it’s about putting the whole thing together.”

Among the positives offensively, Moss has touchdown catches of 57 and 59 yards, Chris Cooley is tied for 11th in the league with 22 receptions and Clinton Portis had his most productive game Sunday.

As for what needs work, there’s everything else. Moss was the only Redskins wide receiver to catch a pass against Tampa Bay, and the Redskins have scored only 13 first-half points.

“Dan [Snyder] would give me a lot of money if I answered that [first-half] question,” Rabach said. “I want to see us put four quarters together and see what this offense can do. If we can do that, I think we can be really dangerous.”

The outlook is more positive defensively. The Redskins corrected their third-down issue - Tampa Bay was 2-for-13, allowing the Redskins to move out of the cellar in that department. The defense is 12th in yards, fifth in passing and first in the red zone. But they know the rush defense (128 yards a game) has to improve.

“We’re not giving up a ton of points, and we’re stopping people often in the red zone,” Doughty said. “I really feel like we’re coming together as a defense, but we need to get some of the assignments and communication down. On those big runs, it wasn’t guys getting knocked around, it was missed alignments and missed assignments and that was everybody. As we mold and get more comfortable, we’ll improve.”

Doughty said the day-after-victory feeling for the Redskins was different than after the St. Louis game, which makes him optimistic the Redskins can string together a winning streak.

“It was relief when we got off the field with a win in the Rams game,” Doughty said. “This week we accelerated [during the game]. We proved to ourselves that even though we were down, we weren’t out.”

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