A struggling offense and a variety of injuries have likely cost the Washington Redskins a spot in the postseason after a hot start, but they hope a fired-up Clinton Portis will at least keep their chances alive another week.
Portis and the Redskins face the dismal Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, in the first meeting between the two at Paul Brown Stadium.
Washington (7-6) has dropped two in a row and four of its last five games, including a 24-10 loss to Baltimore on Sunday. The Redskins fell into last place in the NFC East, as their prospects for a wild-card spot dimmed.
Last Sunday’s loss was a particularly poor performance by Washington, which trailed 17-0 through three quarters before getting on the board. Jason Campbell threw one touchdown and two interceptions to finish with his second-lowest quarterback rating of the season at 60.4
Portis had an even worse game, finishing with 32 yards on 11 carries, one week after running for a season-low 22 yards in a loss to the New York Giants. Portis, who is third in the NFL in rushing with 1,260 yards, averaged 118 yards in the first eight games but is averaging barely half that - 63.2 yards - in the last five.
With frustration settling in, Portis, who was removed from last Sunday’s game after the first series of the second half, lashed out at coach Jim Zorn on a local sports radio station on Monday, sarcastically calling Zorn a “genius” and talking about severing ties with the organization.
Zorn and Portis met Wednesday for 10 minutes, with each saying they cleared the air.
“It was something on my chest that I needed to get off,” Portis said. “I had some stuff built up. I was itching to air it out. After we talked, we’re on the same page.”
Zorn attributed Portis’ decreased playing time to the running back’s lack of practice due to knee, rib and neck injuries.
“It’s all about losing,” Zorn said of Portis’ unhappiness. “Winning doesn’t bring all of this out. Losing does. You know what remedies all this? Winning.”
Washington has been held to 10 or fewer points in four of the last five games to fall to 29th in the league in scoring, but it’s on the defensive side where the team is suffering most with injuries.
Left tackle Chris Samuels suffered a season-ending torn right triceps against the Ravens, adding to a lengthy list of Washington injuries. Marcus Washington (high ankle sprain), Kedric Golston (ankle), London Fletcher (foot) and Chris Horton (shoulder) are already battling ailments while Shawn Springs (strained left calf) and Cornelius Griffin (shoulder and abdominal strain) are also questionable this weekend.
With the season essentially on the line this weekend, Fletcher led a players-only meeting on Wednesday.
“It wasn’t a lot of yelling or anything, it was really a matter of understanding that we are too good of a football team to be playing the way that we’ve been playing,” he told the Redskins’ official Web site. “We need to turn this thing around and it starts this week with Cincinnati.”
After visiting the Bengals (1-11-1), Washington hosts Philadelphia before traveling to San Francisco to close out the regular season. The Redskins are looking to make the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1990-92 - a stretch which included their last Super Bowl title.
The woeful Bengals, meanwhile, long ago had their fate sealed. They have gone 0-3-1 since a 21-19 win over Jacksonville on Nov. 2 and have been outscored 69-6 the last two weeks.
Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jordan Palmer combined for three interceptions last Sunday en route to a 35-3 loss to Indianapolis. It was the second straight game in which Palmer - the third-stringer - replaced a struggling Fitzpatrick.
The Bengals have gone 11 consecutive quarters without scoring a touchdown.
“It’s definitely been a tough year,” said Fitzpatrick, who took over the starting job after Carson Palmer injured his right elbow. “You get so few chances in this league … We have three more games to end on a good note and we can’t dwell on what the past has give us and what hasn’t happened.”
This is the first meeting between these teams since Cincinnati won 17-10 on the road in 2004, and their first matchup in Cincinnati since 1991, when the Redskins won 34-27 at Riverfront Stadium.
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