Redskins may be 5-0, but their perfection is still to be determined


One month into the season, this is what you know about th 5-0 Washington Redskins:

* That their defense can whip the tar out of JV quarterbacks on their home turf.

* That they have, in Earnest Byner, one of the NFL's best all-purpose backs.

* That their special teams are playing on a level reminiscent of their Super Bowl season of 1983.

What you don't know about the Redskins, though, is how good they really are. Face it, 5-0 is as much a product of circumstances as it is a reflection of their talent.

They beat Detroit without running back Barry Sanders, Phoenix without quarterback Timm Rosenbach, and Philadelphia without

Randall Cunningham or, after one quarter, Jim McMahon. Detroit quarterback Rodney Peete was rusty from playing only one quarter in the preseason when he went 8-for-21 with three interceptions against the Redskins in the season opener. And although Dallas running back Emmitt Smith burned them for two touchdowns in a Monday night affair, he was rendered ineffective in the second half of that game by a stomach disorder.

And despite three shutouts at RFK Stadium, the Redskins have given up 31 and 27 points on the road when they've faced accomplished quarterbacks in Troy Aikman and Boomer Esiason.

The Redskins go back on the road to face quarterback Jim Harbaugh and the Chicago Bears Sunday at 1 p.m. (Ch. 11) in a game that may not shed much light on Washington's potential. The Bears, although tied with Detroit at 4-1 for the NFC Central lead, are last in the NFC in defense. They are giving up 132 yards a game rushing and 206 passing. The Redskins, meanwhile, are 16-2 after a Monday night game under coach Joe Gibbs.

1% After the Skins beat Philadelphia

23-0 Monday night, Gibbs declined to measure the 5-0 start in any terms other than 5-0. Indeed, some Redskins are almost giddy to be unbeaten five weeks into the season.

"I've never been 5-0 on nobody's team," said Byner. "I was on a high school team that was 0-5. This is an odd feeling for me. But it's great to be part of a team that is playing the way we are playing."

Byner is a big reason the Redskins have gotten off to such a good start. Against the Eagles' top-ranked defense, he pounded inside 29 times for 95 yards rushing and a touchdown, and caught two passes for 24 yards. He has rushed for 100 yards in seven of his last 10 regular-season games.

And at age 30, he doesn't seem to be slowing down. He is fifth in the league in rushing (463 yards) and third in scrimmage yards (622). His 108 rushing attempts are second in the league and raise a question about whether the heavy load will wear him out over a 16-game schedule.

"I'm not worried about that," Byner said. "We've got enough quality backs that if I do get tired I can come out."

Byner's contribution enabled the Redskins to overcome a ghastly four-turnover performance by quarterback Mark Rypien, who threw two interceptions and lost two fumbles. Although Rypien has been fumble-prone in his NFL career and lost his starting job for a time in 1989 because of it, Gibbs said his problem against the Eagles "was totally different." Rypien fumbled two center snaps when Russ Grimm replaced injured starting center Jeff Bostic, and he fumbled one other time when he tripped over guard Mark Schlereth's foot pulling away from center.

Ironically, it was a game against Chicago in 1989 that solidified his position with the Redskins. He completed 30 of 47 passes for a career-high 401 yards and four touchdowns in a 38-14 win at RFK Stadium.

Since then, the Redskins have gone 20-6 in the regular season. Inhis last 20 regular-season starts, Rypien has posted a 17-3 record.


The Redskins have won four of the last five against the Bears, including 10-9 a year ago . . . Redskins wide receiver Art Monk needs eight catches to pass Charlie Joiner (750) for second place on the NFL's all-time receiving list . . . The Redskins may activate cornerback A.J. Johnson this week. Johnson, who broke his wrist in the preseason, has been working out for two weeks.

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