Redskins put pride on line against Colts Team is desperate to end 6-game skid

WASHINGTON — WASHINGTON -- When Washington Redskins running back Earnest Byner was walking off the field Monday night in Buffalo, he got some encouraging words from Bills defensive end Bruce Smith.

"He said, 'You're too good a team to have this going on, so go ahead and get this thing turned around,' " Byner said.


The Redskins will find out tonight when they play host to the Indianapolis Colts if they can really turn their season around.

They've lost six straight games for the first time since 1963 and are 1-6 for the first time since coach Joe Gibbs' first season in 1981.


The Redskins can rationalize their 1-6 start. They have been devastated by injuries, and when they take the field tonight, they will have just eight players left who have started every game this year.

Except for two losses to the Phoenix Cardinals, the Redskins can rationalize the four other defeats -- tough road games at Buffalo, Miami and Philadelphia (before Randall Cunningham was injured) and a home contest against the resurgent New York Giants.

However, it would be impossible to rationalize a loss to the Colts.

The Colts can change cities and players (only one, punter Rohn Stark, is left from the team that moved from Baltimore to Indianapolis in 1984), but they have the same owner (Bob Irsay) ** and the same losing ways. Irsay is in his 22nd year as owner and is still looking for his first playoff victory.

Indianapolis is 3-4, but it is only a pair of 9-6 victories from a 1-6 record. Despite a six-game losing streak, the Redskins are 6 1/2 -point favorites.

If the Redskins beat the Colts, they can look forward to better things in the second half of the season, including games against the Los Angeles Rams, Atlanta Falcons, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New York Jets.

In Gibbs' first season, the Redskins rallied from 1-6 to finish 8-8. Coach Richie Petitbon would like to do the same. He was even talking about the playoffs last week, noting that an 8-8 record might make it and 9-7 probably would.

As quarterback Mark Rypien said: "Who knows what will happen down the stretch here? We may reel off a couple in a row and find a chemistry that's working and get ourselves out of a tough hole that we've dug ourselves into."


Petitbon also talked about starting a streak, but needing one victory to get it started.

"It can snowball for us just the way it snowballed the other way," Petitbon said.

What nobody around the Redskins wants to talk about is what will happen if they don't win tonight.

It might mean the season had reached the point of no return, that the coaches would have to start worrying about their job security.

It was somewhat ominous that Petitbon talked about how the team "made progress" in the 24-10 loss to Buffalo. It was progress only when measured against the combined losses by a 77-13 margin they suffered in the previous two games against the Giants (41-7) and Cardinals (36-6).

But progress was never the measuring stick for the Redskins in the Gibbs years. Winning was.


And at this point, the Redskins can't settle for progress. They have to show they can win again.

If they're to do it, Rypien has to perform, because Washington can go only as far as he can carry it.

Despite a beat-up offensive line, the Redskins are averaging 4.8 yards a carry rushing, and rookie Reggie Brooks is doing even better, averaging 5.1 yards a carry, compiling 419 yards for the season.

The Redskins haven't been the same, though, since Rypien injured his knee in Week 2 against the Cardinals. The club rushed him back and he has been ineffective the past three games, throwing one touchdown pass and six interceptions. He said his knee is improving, and he's not using it as an excuse.

Rypien took the blame for the Buffalo loss after being intercepted on four consecutive possessions.

"I kind of let the guys down. I had a chance to make a difference in this one and came up short," he said. "I want to jump back in there and get this bad taste out of my mouth."


Rypien wasn't helped when Desmond Howard ran bad routes on two of the interceptions, but the quarterback accepted the blame.

"I'm a big Desmond fan," Rypien said. "The only way you're going to find out if a guy's ready to play is to throw him in the fire. For the most part, Desmond's held up very well. You can't blame him on that one I threw in the end zone. You had a communication problem."

In any case, Rypien hopes to bring the team back tonight.

"We've finally got a game at home and we're looking to win a game somehow, some way," he said.