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Gibbs: It'sallbetween the tackles

December 19, 2006 12:50 am

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Reggie Bush's string of dynamic games came to a screeching halt Sunday as the Redskins' defense swarmed the Saints' rookie (25).

By ADAM HIMMELSBACH
By ADAM HIMMELSBACH

Sometime in mid-November, Redskins coach Joe Gibbs and his coterie of assistant coaches huddled to figure out where their team had gone so horribly wrong.

Rather than dwell too much on where they had misfired, Gibbs said the group decided to go back to where things had gone right.

To do that, they had to go all the way back to a successful two-game run--if you can call it that--early in the season.

In those two games, the Redskins beat the Houston Texans, 31-15, and the Jacksonville Jaguars, 36-30. Gibbs figured there had to be some common denominator, some winning formula that could be found in those games.

It turned out, there was.

Like the classic Gibbs-coached teams, the Redskins had had success running the football while stopping their opponent from doing the same.

Against the Texans, the Redskins held a 234-61 edge in rushing yards.

Against the Jaguars, Washington's rushers out-gained Jacksonville's, 152-33.

"We kind of had a general talk and understanding about, 'Hey, this is what we want to be down the stretch,'" Gibbs said yesterday.

This commitment to running and stopping the run actually got its kick-start in the Redskins' loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Dec. 10.

In that game, Washington had 210 rushing yards, compared to 99 for the Eagles. But Philadelphia won the game, 21-19.

On Sunday afternoon, the Redskins won their line-of-scrimmage tussle with the New Orleans Saints, gaining 161 rushing yards while holding New Orleans to 71.

And this time, the Redskins won the game, 16-10.

"If we can stop the run, and then run, that's Redskins football," Gibbs said. "I thought it was one of our best efforts. I thought we played very physical.

" We want to set a standard down the stretch. We want to these three weeks kind of set a game plan for ourselves and get back to what we should look like and how we should play."

At 5-9 and officially eliminated from playoff contention, that is all the Redskins have left to play for. But they seem intent on closing with a flourish rather than a whisper.

On offense, running back Ladell Betts has been a cornerstone of the Redskins' recent run of running.

Betts, who replaced the injured starter Clinton Portis in late November, has been one of the league's top running backs over the past month. In the last four games, Betts has run for 549 yards.

And after having a host of starters hampered by injuries, the Redskins' defense is finally healthy, and it showed on Sunday. In addition to slowing the league's top passer, Drew Brees (207 yards, one interception), the Redskins muffled New Orleans' dynamic running back duo of Deuce McAllister and Reggie Bush (combined 62 yards on 22 carries).

"I think our defensive line and front has played very well," Gibbs said.

Notes:

Redskins kicker Shaun Suisham made all three of his field goal tries on Sunday and is now 7-for-7 since joining the team last month.

"It's been awhile since we've had seven straight," Gibbs said.

Gibbs praised Redskins offensive lineman Todd Wade, who filled in for the injured tackle Jon Jansen on Sunday.

"He had great preparation," Gibbs said of Wade. "He's a smart guy and went after it hard. I thought he did a heck of a job for us there."

Gibbs said he did not know if Jansen (calf) would be ready for the Redskins' game against the St. Louis Rams this weekend.

To reach ADAM HIMMELSBACH: 540/374-5442
Email: ahimmelsbach@freelancestar.com





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