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Gibbs Challenges Players...And Himself

A week ago, Joe Gibbs arrived for his Sunday, Aug. 20, press conference visibly upset with his team's performance following a 27-14 preseason loss to the New York Jets at FedExField.

Flash forward one week later. Joe Gibbs chose a markedly different tone after a 41-0 preseason loss to the New England Patriots on Saturday night. It was only a preseason game, but the Redskins appeared to regress in all phases of the game.

Gibbs was critical, to be sure. He cited poor special teams play on punts and kickoffs, too many big plays against the defense, and pass protection breakdowns on offense.

But Gibbs was also more calm and reflective. He challenged his players to respond to the adversity of the three-game preseason losing streak.

"Our players have to say to themselves, just like I have to say to myself, 'What can I do to help the football team?'" Gibbs said. "Certainly the offense, defense and special teams are not playing the way we want them to play.

"Our players have to look at themselves and say, Am I where I was last year at this time? Am I conditioned-wise, play-wise, and mentally where I should be?'"

Gibbs has already challenged himself. He has re-evaluated the Redskins' approach to the two-week training camp and preseason. The team arrived at camp on July 31 and had three two-a-day practice sessions.

"We have basically been game-planning one day a week for our opponents," he said. "Obviously, I could have changed that. We could have done a lot earlier in the week. I could have made decisions on each of our practices, how we go about it and how hard we practice, whether we had pads on or we don't.

"So it starts with me. I need to do a good job of analyzing myself and how I can help the football team. We're in a tough situation right now having lost three games the way we did. I need to look at that and say 'How can I help'?"

The Redskins will close out the preseason this Thursday night against the Baltimore Ravens at FedExField.

Gibbs would not disclose how much the starters would play, or if the team's performance the last few weeks would alter his plans for playing time. The preseason finale is typically a game in which backups get most of the playing time because teams don't want to risk injury so close to the regular season.

After Saturday's disappointing loss to New England, players were eager to put the loss behind them.

It appeared they understand Gibbs' message. Whether that translates on Thursday is to be determined.

"We have to perfect our assignments and in the way we play," defensive tackle Joe Salave'a said. "If we don't take care of the little things, this thing is going to snowball. It hurts. The pride is kind of battered a bit now the way things are going. We didn't struggle the last two years to get to where we are at now and give up. We are going to look at this film and get this thing corrected."

Added safety Adam Archuleta: "We have to stop talking about it and now we have to do it. We have been talking about it and talk is cheap. All the preseason forecasts and everything--we just need to start doing it. We all have to step up and be a leader in this."

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