NFL: 4-1 Redksins favored to be 7-1
ASHBURN, Va. ó Riding a four-game winning streak few would have predicted, Washington Redskins coach Jim Zorn on Monday gave his first news conference as a heavy favorite.
A favorite three times over, in fact. Having mastered the tough waters of NFC East opponents Dallas and Philadelphia on the road, the Redskins (4-1) should have smooth sailing all the way to 7-1 with upcoming games against St. Louis (0-4), Cleveland (1-3) and Detroit (0-4). Right?
“That’s probably the scariest thing out there for me. I’m not going to dance the jig because of that,” said Zorn, twisting his body and shuffling his feet as if he actually were going to demonstrate the very dance he said he wouldn’t do. “I’m going to try to work hard and get a good plan.”
So, yes, in that regard, Zorn is going to be like every other coach, wary of letdowns and overconfidence when facing a struggling opponent. What separates him from some others ó particularly predecessor Joe Gibbs ó is that Zorn isn’t afraid to say that he expects to win, an attitude he adopted from his years as an assistant on coach Mike Holmgren’s staff in Seattle.
“Odds? Throw the odds out,” Zorn said. “We expect to win. It was a serious attitude. He just had high expectations, and that permeated to the team and that permeated to the fans, and we were all in it together. And hopefully that’s where we’re headed to.”
Zorn’s newest challenge as a first-time head coach will be to keep his players confident, not cocky, even as they go from being the hunter to the hunted. Certainly, no one’s complaining about that predicament.
“Instead of being one of the teams that’s looking for someone to beat, I think we’re one of the teams that people are looking to beat,” veteran right tackle Jon Jansen said. “That’s a great position to be in. It hasn’t been one that we’ve been in a lot in my tenure here. It’s going to be fun as long as it lasts, and we hope it lasts all year.”
Certainly, no one is enjoying the ride more than owner and super-fan Dan Snyder, who’s been caught on camera screaming in the aftermath of the last two games. After Sunday’s 23-17 victory over the Eagles, he walked off the field yelling: “Four-and-1! In Philly! In Dallas! Yeah, Redskins!”
And, for the second straight week, an old-fashioned chant of “Hip, hip, hooray!” reverberated in the locker room, this time led by receiver Antwaan Randle El instead of Zorn.
Under Zorn, the Redskins are writing their own textbook on how to win in the NFL, mixing some of the classic formulas with a few of their own. The offense still hasn’t fumbled the ball, and Jason Campbell’s season-long run without an interception has set the franchise record for attempts without a pick. Opponents are now up to 34 straight drives started in their own territory.
Washington is winning the time of possession by an average of nearly 6 minutes per game and dominating the fourth quarter with clock-killing drives, outscoring opponents 34-10 over the final 15 minutes.
Then there’s the unexpected. Beating Philadelphia without injured top cornerback Shawn Springs. Winning without a single catch from Santana Moss, who, by the way, exhibited nothing but happiness over the victory without a hint of a Terrell Owens “Why didn’t I get the ball?” attitude. Going for it yet again on fourth-and-short when holding a lead late in the fourth quarter ó and letting running back Clinton Portis choose the play that worked to get the first down.
“I had three plays,” Zorn said. “Clinton rolls by me and says, ‘Give me the draw,’ and that was one of the plays. I said, ‘OK,’ so Clinton called the play. We got the first down because Clinton willed his way for those 2 yards. Was the call great? I don’t know. But the execution was great.”
Needless to say, those fourth down calls win major points in the gumption column from the players.
“You can’t play scared,” Moss said. “You can’t win scared. That’s been something that’s been noticed around here since we’ve been on this little run. We haven’t been playing scared football.”
Winning such favor with his players made it easier for Zorn to order them to show up for work Monday, forgoing the traditional “victory Monday” day off. Despite their winning streak, the Redskins are merely tied with Dallas for second place in the toughest division in the NFL, a half game behind the undefeated New York Giants.
“They would all love to have a little bit of a rest, but we have work to do,” Zorn said. “We did not play flawless football.”