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Brunell Has Team Believing

Mark Brunell was sporting a black eye on Wednesday, courtesy of a hit from Jevon Kearse during last Sunday's 17-10 win over the Philadelphia Eagles.

"I took off to run a little bit [during a scramble] and he got a hand inside my face mask," he said. "It happens."

Speaking with reporters on Wednesday afternoon, Brunell seemed to wear the black eye as if it were a badge of honor, a remnant from the tough, physical game against Philadelphia.

Brunell's resurgence this year has instilled confidence in his teammates, head coach Joe Gibbs said.

At the midpoint of the regular season, he is the NFL's 12th-best quarterback in terms of passer rating with a 90.3 mark. He has completed 58 percent of his passes, with 12 touchdowns and only three interceptions.

"He has been there, done that," Gibbs said. "He's been in really tough situations and it instills confidence in those around him. None of us are going to be able to talk a team into believing in something. It means a lot if a team believes a quarterback can do it."

No matter how much experience a quarterback has, the position still comes down to production, Gibbs added.

This season, Brunell has stepped up in that category as well.

"A quarterback's best plays are when they make a play when one's not there," Gibbs said. "Against Philly, you saw him come out of the pocket, buy time and throw the ball away. Your quarterback comes down to a lot of those plays.

"You know that a quarterback will hit it when the play is there and he gets good protection. I think Mark's best plays are when he has a sixth sense, he feels the rush and knows when to slide. He knows when to protect the ball. Typically that's what your quarterback does for you when you're playing well and winning close games."

Brunell's leadership will be needed this Sunday when the Redskins travel to Tampa Bay to face off against the NFL's top-ranked defense.

The Buccaneers have a defensive lineup that could rival a Pro Bowl lineup, with such stars as defensive linemen Simeon Rice and Anthony McFarland, linebacker Derrick Brooks, cornerbacks Ronde Barber and Brian Kelly and free safety Dexter Jackson, a former Super Bowl MVP.

"We have to be ready and well prepared," Brunell said. "They have a great scheme and they've played in it for quite a few years."

Further, the Redskins are 1-3 in road games this season. With the team in the playoff hunt, stealing wins on the road becomes an imperative.

"It's pretty common for NFL teams to struggle on the road," Brunell said. "But we've won on the road against Dallas. So we know we can win on the road.

Added Brunell: "It's tougher on the road, obviously, but it's the same game. You try not to make the mistakes that hurt you. Don't turn the ball over. Make some big plays. And make sure the crowd noise doesn't bother you. Hopefully we'll find a way to play better on the road this week."

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