Norv Turner might keep the Redskins out of the playoffs again.
Oakland's coach, who presided over 7-1 (1996) and 6-2 (2000) starts in Washington before the team failed to reach postseason, dealt the Redskins a 16-13 home loss on Nov. 20 that might prevent Washington from reaching the postseason this year.
If the Redskins had been able to hold the lead against Turner's 4-8 Raiders, they would have possession of the NFC's last playoff spot.
That's because Washington would then be 7-5, and it has the tiebreaker edge on the three teams that are 7-5, Dallas (thanks to the 14-13 victory on Sept. 19 at Texas Stadium), Atlanta (thanks to its superior 6-2 NFC record) and Minnesota (again because of a better conference mark.)
Instead, at 6-6 after Sunday's 24-9 victory at St. Louis, the Redskins trail the Cowboys, Falcons and Vikings as well as Seattle, Chicago, Carolina and the New York Giants with just four games to go.
The good news for the Redskins is that they're done with the AFC, against which they were 0-4. And not only is this week's game against 4-8 Arizona, but Washington already has beaten two of its other three remaining foes, Dallas and Philadelphia.
Quotes and Notes
--After converting just three of 14 third downs against the Chargers, the Redskins were 8-for-14 against the Rams, their second-best performance of the season in that category. Rock Cartwright raced 52 yards on third-and-1 in the second quarter to set up a field goal, and fellow running back Clinton Portis dove into the end zone on third-and-goal from the 1 to give the Redskins a 17-7 lead with 13:46 to play.
"Those were big," quarterback Mark Brunell said. "On third-and-1, you're hoping to get a yard, a yard and a half. It starts with the offensive line. Handing the ball to Rock (on the 52-yard gain), the seas parted, and that was pretty impressive."
--Tight end Robert Royal was disconsolate after dropping three of the four balls thrown his way in an overtime loss to San Diego. But Royal redeemed himself in St. Louis with career highs of four catches for 40 yards. Three of the grabs came in the span of four plays in the third quarter. Royal had just 23 catches in his previous 30 games.
"It wasn't like we did anything special to try to get me the ball to make up for last week," Royal said. "It was the same offense. It just so happened that the coverage allowed me to get the ball a little bit."
--SS Ryan Clark left Redskin Park on crutches Monday because of the ankle he sprained against the Rams, but director of sports medicine Bubba Tyer is upbeat about Clark's chances of playing at Arizona.
--RB Ladell Betts, out the past two games with a sprained knee, will practice full bore on Wednesday for the first time since he was hurt at Tampa Bay. He should play on Sunday.
--DT Joe Salave'a, who finally gave in to his long-ailing foot and sat out in St. Louis, is doubtful for the Cardinals game.
--WR James Thrash, who has missed the past two games with a pulled hamstring, is doubtful for the Cardinals game.
--DT Cedric Killings said the groin he pulled last Thursday is feeling better. However, his return for this week is questionable.
Report Card vs. Rams
PASSING OFFENSE: B-minus -- QB Mark Brunell got off to a rough start and later lost the ball for a safety after bumping into RB Clinton Portis. At halftime, Brunell had a dreadful 58.5 passer rating. However, the 35-year-old was flawless in the second half, hitting all eight of his passes for 100 yards. WR Santana Moss produced not much quantity but plenty of quality. All three of Moss' catches were for first downs, including the spectacular, leaping, 30-yard grab that set up the touchdown that made it 17-7 early in the fourth quarter. After stepping up the previous week, WR Taylor Jacobs took two steps back this week with one catch for minus-1 yard. After three costly drops in the overtime loss to San Diego, TE Robert Royal redeemed himself with a career day -- four catches for 40 yards. H-back Chris Cooley had five catches, including his first touchdown in seven weeks. The line allowed just one sack.
RUSHING OFFENSE: A -- Portis scooted 47 yards for a touchdown on his second carry and went on to finish with 136 yards and two TDs on 27 carries. Backup Rock Cartwright had the game of his life with nine carries for 118 yards, including a 52-yard burst. RG Randy Thomas pulled to clear the way for Portis' long touchdown, on which H-back Mike Sellers also threw a key block. Royal and Cooley both threw huge blocks for Portis and Moss. C Casey Rabach and LT Chris Samuels were caught holding at inopportune times, but anytime your offense runs for 257 yards, your line has had a huge day.
RUSH DEFENSE: A -- A week after folding against Chargers RB LaDainian Tomlinson, the Redskins held the Rams to 49 yards on 17 carries despite the absence of injured run-stopping RT Joe Salave'a. RE Phillip Daniels was a force against the run early. LE Renaldo Wynn had the critical fumble recovery after the Rams had closed within 17-9. LT Cornelius Griffin had a tackle for a loss in his first start in five weeks because of an ailing hip. Daniels set the tone by stopping Steven Jackson for a 2-yard loss on the Rams' first run. WLB LaVar Arrington fought through a pulled quad and had five tackles, one behind MLB Lemar Marshall and CB Carlos Rogers, who shared the team lead.
PASS DEFENSE: B-plus -- OLBs Arrington and Marcus Washington made tackles for losses of 7 and 11 yards on the Rams' first and third plays. Other than an 86-yard drive in the second quarter, the defense was stout. The line, as usual, had no pass rush, but backup WLB Chris Clemons got consistent pressure on Rams rookie QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. Rookie CB Carlos Rogers had an INT for the second straight week and played pretty well against standout WRs Torry Holt and Issac Bruce in his first start since replacing Walt Harris in the lineup. The corners had a little too much respect for Holt's speed, giving him more room than necessary to operate underneath, but the Rams didn't have a completion of 20 yards. CB Shawn Springs continues to have a strong season. Reserve SS Pierson Prioleau had an early sack. FS Sean Taylor committed a costly facemask penalty.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C-minus -- K John Hall didn't have a good day, missing a 45-yard field goal and sending a kickoff out of bounds. P Derrick Frost launched one 51-yarder but was clearly outkicked by 41-year-old ex-Redskin Bryan Barker. Kick coverage was as excellent as ever. Antonio Brown had one fine punt return (16 yards), but his best kickoff return was wiped out by a penalty.
COACHING: B -- Joe Gibbs said he wanted to keep building momentum by taking a 10-point lead when he eschewed going for it on fourth-and-1 on the first play of the second quarter. The bad decision looked even worse when John Hall missed the 45-yard field-goal try. At least Gibbs didn't stop running in the second half as he did in the upset loss to Oakland two weeks earlier. Assistant head coach/defense Gregg Williams had a big day, as his schemes shut down the Rams. Washington outgained St. Louis by a whopping 407-191. Danny Smith's coverage teams are still minus injured gunner James Thrash, but it helped having menacing Sellers back. Having Thrash and the injured Ladell Betts back to return kicks would help, too.