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VA PILOT: Gibbs’ encore win erases all those dark without


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Gibbs’ encore win erases all those dark without

By TOM ROBINSON, The Virginian-Pilot


TLANDOVER, Md. he Washington Redskins’ first two plays of Joe Gibbs’ encore as head coach were passes to Rod Gardner. The receiver dropped the first and caught the second.

The third play was a 64-yard touchdown burst through the stout Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ defense by new tailback Clinton Portis.

Now, it’s true that Gibbs spent the last dozen years off runnin’ race cars. But he wasn’t fooled for an instant that scoring in the NFL had somehow become as easy as onetwo-three while he was away.

Portis’ touchdown, in fact, was the only one scored by either offense. For that, Gibbs can thank the Bucs’ Joey Galloway.

Not to upset anybody’s bandwagon, but Galloway facilitated the day’s feelgood script by stone-handing a perfect pass from Brad Johnson in the end zone in the second quarter.

Tampa Bay could’ve used the six, seeing as how the Redskins won 16-10.

Anyway, the point is, the league that Gibbs returned to Sunday on a bright, warm afternoon at FedEx Field isn’t terribly different from the one he once knew, and for a time owned.

Physical and mental challenges still must be met. Plays still must be made. Effort still must be crisp, consistent and complete.

The Redskins too often failed those standards during the dark days of Petitbon-Turner-Robiskie-Schottenheimer-Spurrier that produced all of one playoff team.

But Gibbs has put the band back together.

Fun ‘n Gun never happened. The clouds have lifted.

And the Redskins won a football game in the most basic of ways — they performed their collective assignments better than their opponent.

Slightly better, but better.

In the NFL’s 16-week march of attrition, that is the only way to survive, let alone win.

"I’ve got to tell you, I think both teams were laying it out there as hard as they could," said Gibbs, who accomplished something he couldn’t 23 years ago — a victory in his debut.

"It was so hard fought, we didn’t think we had it until it was actually over."

They got it in large part because the trademarks of Steve Spurrier’s rudderless reign — the illegal formations, the late hits, the general malaise — were conspicuously removed, like a pimple airbrushed from a portrait.

Perfection isn’t the issue. Looking as though you know what you’re doing is.

By that measure, Gibbs’ Redskins may be on to something.

Their offensive line allowed no sacks to one of the league’s most aggressive defenses, and cleared the path on which Portis gained 148 yards on 29 carries.

Washington’s defense gave the Bucs, offensively limited to begin with, nothing downfield.

And this is staggering, considering Spurrier’s notoriously jumpy teams, but there were no false-starts among the Redskins’ three penalties for a measly 23 yards.

Oh, the Redskins had a bit of difficulty getting the ball from the center to the quarterback a couple of times. Their kick coverage has holes that Gibbs acknowledged.

And in their one glaring miscue, they served the Bucs’ the game-tying TD late in the third quarter when Mark Brunell tried to hand off to Portis while falling down.

Tampa Bay’s Ronde Barber carried that fumble nine yards into the end zone to tie it at 10, bringing the day’s only boos from the seats. But that joyless noise was a memory in minutes.

The Redskins, who blitzed relentlessly, forced Johnson to pass directly into the hands of middle linebacker Antonio Pierce.

A few plays later, John Hall’s 30-yard field goal regained the lead that the Redskins — yes, the Washington Redskins — were fundamentally sound and savvy enough this time to protect.

"This was huge for me," Gibbs said. "I told our players hopefully now the attention can go on them."

It may even be the good kind of attention — too scarce in this organization for far too long. Reach Tom Robinson at 446-2518 or at tom.robinson@pilotonline.com

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