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News & Notes: Offense Eyes Improvement

The Redskins' offense was in top form late in the 2005 regular season, leading the way in wins over the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants.

But in Saturday's Wild Card playoff game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the offensive production dropped off dramatically. The Redskins managed just 120 total yards, 25 passing yards and nine first downs.

It was the lowest yardage total ever by a winning team in a playoff game, as the Redskins' defense led the way in the 17-10 win over the Bucs.

Head coach Joe Gibbs knows that his offense must be more productive on offense to stay with the Seattle Seahawks, the Redskins' next playoff opponent. The Seahawks have the league's second-ranked offense and have scored 27 or more points in 11 games this season, finishing with a 13-3 record and the NFC's top seed.

"I think [Seahawks head coach] Mike Holmgren has kind of built the team around what he wants with the West Coast offense," Gibbs said. "They have a quarterback who makes very few mistakes. They have a star running back. Their offensive line has some of the most high-profile linemen in the league. We have a tough assignment.

"So if you were to draw it up, certainly I would say the best way for us to win the ballgame [against Seattle] is to move the ball ourselves, and keep their offense off the field."

Against Tampa Bay, Gibbs gave the credit to the Bucs' defense, ranked No. 1 in the NFL during the regular season.

"One of the reasons why we struggled is them," he said. "They are real good at what they do. They play very aggressive."

It's also worth noting that, with a 17-3 lead to start the second half, Gibbs appeared to play it somewhat conservatively, putting the game in the hands of the defense. Many of his play calls on first and second downs were run plays to Clinton Portis or Ladell Betts--even as the Bucs stacked the box with eight defenders.

Portis finished the game with 53 yards on 26 carries, with one touchdown, while Betts logged 25 yards on 10 carries.

In the passing offense, Mark Brunell was 7-of-15 for 41 yards. He was sacked twice. Brunell suffered a knee ligament injury in the Week 16 game against the New York Giants, but he has played through it. Brunell has said the injury isn't hampering him.

Gibbs said that Brunell's veteran savvy was key in the win over the Buccaneers.

"To me, what he did in those games in winning them, he made plays in there," Gibbs said. "Sometimes what a quarterback does, it doesn't look pretty. The best play he makes is when the play is not there. Mark has been exceptional at that, whether it's running with the ball or throwing it away. He has helped us win football games the last few weeks. Sometimes it doesn't look good in the stats."

Moss, who caught 84 passes for a team-record 1,483 receiving yards in the regular season, was not much of a factor against Tampa Bay.

"The Bucs schemed to keep Santana Moss in front of them," Gibbs said. "We thought we had some shots in there to get the ball to him--and we took those shots in the first half. We didn't get much out of it.

After a strong showing in December, H-back Chris Cooley has found tighter coverage in January. Cooley, who emerged this season as a viable second option to Moss with 71 catches for 774 yards, caught just two passes for 12 yards against Tampa Bay.

"He's very valuable to us," Gibbs said of Cooley. "He's in on every pass concept that we have. He plays almost every down because he's playing either tight end or H-back for us. We haven't gotten him the ball much and that's something that we need to do."

Left tackle Chris Samuels said that the offensive line needs to play better to get the passing game going.

"I think we have to do a better job protecting the quarterback--that's number one," Samuels said. "We have to give him an opportunity to throw the ball and let guys get open downfield."

-- THRASH UPDATE

Wide receiver James Thrash underwent surgery on Monday to repair a slight fracture in his thumb. He was fitted with a splint that could allow him to play in Saturday's game against the Seattle Seahawks.

"We feel like it's day to day with James," Gibbs said. "He played three quarters [in Saturday's game] with it like that. There will be a splint, in which the end of his finger still will be out, and it will allow him to catch. We're going to take day to day and see how it feels."

Thrash has started the last two games for the Redskins. If he is unable to play, Taylor Jacobs and Jimmy Farris would likely see increased playing time. Antonio Brown, who plays mostly on special teams as a kick return specialist, could also see time at wide receiver.

Thrash's availability to return punts and kickoffs could also be affected. Brown and Ladell Betts would likely share duties on kick returns.

-- WYNN TO IR

As expected, defensive end Renaldo Wynn was officially placed on injured reserve on Monday. Wynn suffered a fractured forearm in the first quarter of Saturday's win over Tampa Bay.

Demetric Evans is expected to see the bulk of playing time in place of Wynn, with second-year lineman Nic Clemons also in the mix.

To replace Wynn, the team signed linebacker Nick McNeil from the practice squad. A first-year player out of Western Carolina, McNeil originally signed with the Redskins' practice squad in September 2005. The 6-2, 245-pounder has also had brief stints with Green Bay and Pittsburgh.

-- CONGRATULATIONS TO LAVAR

Linebacker LaVar Arrington's wife Trish gave birth to a baby girl on Sunday.

Arrington was at Redskins Park for a workout on Monday, then quickly departed to go be with his wife and daughter, named Marlee. A swarm of reporters followed him to his car, but he was not eager for a media session.

"My only quote is Seattle," Arrington said.

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