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Brunell's Confidence Never Wavers

Mark Brunell approaches everything in life with the self-assuredness of someone who has, well, competed in pressure-packed NFL games. This is an 11-year veteran of professional football who has started playoff games as well as the AFC Championship game.

Brunell knows his capabilities better than anyone. And even with the struggles of the Redskins passing offense this season, that self-assuredness is not going away.

"I have played a long time and I've had a lot of success," Brunell said. "I'm certainly not going to let six or seven games of not having the statistics I want take any confidence away from me.

"I am very confident in what I can do and how I play this game. I see the field better than I ever have and I feel like I'm making good decisions. We're just not getting it done--and that falls on the quarterback. But we have a lot of football left and we have talented players. We will get this thing going."

Brunell has completed 117-of-229 passes, or a league-low 51.1 percent, for 1,188 yards and seven touchdowns. As head coach Joe Gibbs has mentioned often, Brunell has protected the football well, throwing just five interceptions, and has the mobility to escape pressure in the pocket.

Said Gibbs: "Mark watches the film, works hard and knows how to lead this team. I know he's frustrated, just like we all are. We have to find a way to get it done. We should be operating at a higher level than what we are.

"I think I'd rate him as No. 1 on my list as far as confidence. He's battle-tested. He's been through this before. None of us like it. We're all frustrated by it, but he's handled it very well."

In last Sunday's game against Detroit, a 17-10 win over the Lions, Gibbs called just two passes in the second half as the Redskins tried to protect a lead.

Brunell said that conservative approach was proper for how the game played out.

"I think it was smart," Brunell said. "The way Tom Tupa was punting and the way our defense was playing, we had to play conservative. It was smart. We got the win. You want to be able to throw it, but going to the run at that point in the second half was the smart move."

This Sunday, against the Cincinnati Bengals at FedExField, playing conservatively on offense may not be the best plan of attack, Gibbs said.

Cincinnati is ranked 25th in overall offense, but they have a trio of young, up-and-coming players in quarterback Carson Palmer, running back Rudi Johnson and wide receiver Chad Johnson.

"The Bengals are really talented on offense," Gibbs said. "We'll probably be much more aggressive than we were against Detroit. We're going to have to match their play and score points."

Even so, the Bengals' defense is ranked last in the league against the run-which would seem to suggest a heavy workload for tailback Clinton Portis.

Gibbs stressed that a balanced attack is the best way to attack a Marvin Lewis-led defense.

"They're going to give you every look you can think of," Gibbs said. "It's hard preparation. We were in here late last night trying to find something that would work. You go up against their defense and they pressure you from all over the place.

"We have great respect for them. Any team that can beat up Dallas solidly the way they did, and beat Denver, certainly has our respect. We're going to have to play great."

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