Redskins a mess as they face Bengals

Published 11:16 pm Saturday, December 13, 2008

Clinton Portis got benched and got even, derisively calling his rookie head coach a genius. The offensive line meetings have turned into meet-and-greet sessions. The record? Getting worse each week.

With so many problems already swirling around them, the Washington Redskins aren’t in position to add one more. They simply can’t afford to pull an Eagles.

The Redskins (7-6) know that their once-promising season will be in tatters if they come to town on Sunday and let the injuries and the egos get in the way. The Bengals (1-11-1) can’t win without a lot of help — they can’t even get a touchdown these days without assistance — but it won’t matter if Washington shows up as a mental mess.

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Remember the Eagles.

Four weeks ago, Philadelphia came to town needing a win to stay with the pack of playoff contenders. Instead, Donovan McNabb lost a fumble and threw three interceptions, helping lowly Cincinnati to scratch out a 13-13 tie, the NFL’s first in six years.

‘‘I saw that on TV,’’ Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell said. ‘‘It got our attention. If Cincinnati had beaten the Eagles then, the Eagles would have been out of it then.’’

Same goes for the Redskins. Even a tie would likely knock them out of playoff contention.

Their offense has fallen apart over the last five games, which include four losses. They’ve scored six, 10, seven and 10 points in those losses, culminating in a 24-10 defeat in Baltimore last Sunday. That one turned into a breaking point for Portis, who ran for 944 yards in the first half of the season, but has substantially slowed down because of knee, rib and neck injuries.

He had only 11 carries for 32 yards against the Ravens, and rookie coach Jim Zorn benched him early in the second half, saying the running back’s lack of practice due to injury was affecting his play. Two days later, Portis lashed out at Zorn during a radio show, belittling him by calling him a ‘‘genius.’’

They’ve tried to patch things up, of course. The team captains called a players-only meeting at midweek to make sure everyone understood that after weeks of talking about must-win games, they have to actually win one of them.