Redskins try to pocket record for pass protection Offensive line nears mark for fewest sacks

Jim Hanifan gets a second shot at a coveted record this year.

Hanifan coached the offensive line of the St. Louis Cardinals in 1975, when the group that featured Dan Dierdorf and Conrad Dobler was trying to break the record the San Francisco 49ers had set in 1970 for allowing only eight sacks in a season.


In the record books, the Cardinals wound up tying it by allowing eight, and the Miami Dolphins broke it in 1988, when Dan Marino was sacked seven times.

But, as Hanifan said, the St. Louis linemen "still think they hold the record."


That's because one of the sacks they allowed came on a fake field-goal attempt that went awry.

"It was one of those disasters. It was a bad call on our part. The linemen were telling me, 'You probably called that stupid play,' " Hanifan said with a smile, although he says he didn't call it.

Hanifan, who went on to become the Cardinals head coach and served a stint as an assistant with the Atlanta Falcons before joining the Washington Redskins a year ago, has another chance at coaching a line that could set the record.

With six games left in the regular season, the Redskins have allowed Mark Rypien to be sacked four times and haven't allowed a sack in 23 quarters -- five games and three quarters -- since Seth Joyner of the Philadelphia Eagles got one on the final play of the first quarter on Sept. 30.

The Redskins aren't counting on breaking the record. "It's a tough record to break," said offensive tackle Jim Lachey.

Hanifan, noting that Rypien stayed out of the game in the fourth quarter Sunday, even though coach Joe Gibbs offered to let him return to get the 4 yards he needed to break Sammy Baugh's club passing record, said the 10-0 Redskins don't worry about records.

"I'd rather have the W's, wins," Hanifan said.

Hanifan has continued the tradition of fine Redskins line play started by Joe Bugel, who nicknamed the linemen the "Hogs" and made them household words in Washington. Bugel left to become head coach of the Phoenix Cardinals a year ago.


Hanifan credits the players.

"They're the epitome of what offensive linemen should be," he said. "They're enjoyable to coach, and they've risen to the occasion in pressure-type situations."

Hanifan said the challenge is even more difficult than it was in St. Louis, because defenses give so many different looks these days. But he added that this team has more depth than the Cardinals had.

Although center Jeff Bostic and guards Mark Schlereth and Raleigh McKenzie have played all season, the Redskins have used five tackles -- Lachey, Ed Simmons, Joe Jacoby, Russ Grimm and Mark Adickes -- because of injuries.

Hanifan also credits the backs, tight ends and wide receivers for helping block and Rypien for being quick to read coverages.

Gibbs, the backfield coach in St. Louis in 1975, echoes that thought.


"It takes a lot for a team to be a good pass-protection team. It's your lifeblood, and we spent a lot of time on it," he said.

As the Redskins prepare to go to Pittsburgh for a game Sunday, they're planning to try to continue their pursuit of the record.

They may help their chances if they don't have any fake field-goal attempts go awry.

NOTES: RB Earnest Byner continues to surprise the Redskins with his fast recovery from the knee sprain he suffered Sunday. "I can't believe he's out there. He worked hard today," Gibbs said ZTC yesterday. Byner carried the ball in practice and said he thinks he can play Sunday. Gibbs said that if Byner feels good today, he thinks he can go. Trainer Bubba Tyer said he wants to check the knee for swelling today before giving him the green light. . . . Grimm, Charles Mann and Gary Clark remained sidelined, but are listed as probable.