ASHBURN, Va. (AP) -Even high school coaches know the drill.
On third-and-short deep in the opponent's territory, send in the play and starting thinking ahead: ``If we don't make the first down, will we go for it or kick the field goal?'' After the play is run, there's no indecision.
Even though he's in the Hall of Fame, Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs has often struggled with that type of game management test since coming out of retirement.
The coach was very much on the defensive Monday as he faced a grilling over the 13th blown halftime lead in the 3 1/2 years of Gibbs II. The 33-25 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles had problems that usually go directly to the coach: burned early timeouts, costly penalties and questionable game management.
``What would YOU do?'' said Gibbs, issuing a rhetorical challenge deep into a discussion over how the Redskins ran out of timeouts with 8 minutes to play.
Gibbs went into great detail to defend two decisions that influenced the outcome of the game.
On third-and-1 at the Eagles 5-yard line early in the third quarter, Mike Sellers was clearly stopped short of the first down. Nothing happened for several seconds because Gibbs mistakenly assumed he would get a measurement. That made him late in deciding to kick the field goal. Rather than take the delay-of-game penalty and turn a chip-shot 23-yard field goal into a chip-shot 28-yard field goal, Gibbs burned a timeout.
Gibbs' explanation: His planning was thrown off-kilter because he thought the officials gave Sellers an unfavorable spot.
``I'm saying on the sidelines 'I think he got it,''' Gibbs said. ``If it's real close, then I may be making a decision there that we're going for this thing.''
Gibbs said even after he decided to send the kick team on the field, he was contemplating whether to make a replay challenge of the spot. Thus the timeout.
``I thought that was a complicated issue down there,'' Gibbs said. ``There's a lot going on. In that case, whether to go for it, kick a field goal.''
By the midpoint of fourth quarter, all the timeouts were gone, including one used on a replay challenge. That left the Redskins helpless to stop the clock in the crucial final minutes. With no timeouts, Gibbs also couldn't challenge a long incompletion to Keenan McCardell that likely would have been overturned because the replay showed he got both feet inbounds.
Then, leading 22-20 late in the game, the Redskins get as far as the 1-yard line before a penalty backed them up to the 7 on third down. Rather than take a shot at the end zone for a touchdown that would have finished off the Eagles, the Redskins ran a draw that was stopped well short of the goal line.
Gibbs' explanation: He felt running back Clinton Portis had a chance to score on the draw. Also, he said Jason Campbell had an option to pass if the Eagles lined up in a certain formation. Still, it was a conservative play call that led to a field goal, making the lead only five points and giving the Eagles a chance to win. Several players called that sequence the game's turning point.
``No doubt about it,'' left tackle Chris Samuels said. ``I feel like if we score a touchdown, the game is over with. We didn't do it, and Philly took advantage of it.''
If those two plays were isolated incidents, there wouldn't be such a fuss. But Gibbs' in-game coaching decisions have been an issue since his return in 2004. Gibbs declined to evaluate himself in that area as compared to his first stint in Washington, but he was clearly doing his best to state his case for the job he's doing now.
That became clear when it came time to discuss his most telling stat. The one-time master of the halftime adjustments has lost his touch. Gibbs is 17-13 with a halftime lead the second time around, including 11-8 at home. He was 86-11 when leading at halftime and 47-3 at home in Gibbs I.
Gibbs is a mere 3-3 with a halftime lead this year, a major reason his team is 5-4 and in third place in the NFC East.
``You're right, in three of them we didn't finish the way we wanted to,'' Gibbs said. ``But I've also seen our team this year exhibit the kind of fight and finish that you would like to see.''
Near the end of the news conference, Gibbs stressed he doesn't know all the answers, even after 24 years in the NFL.
``The day that you quit learning up here, you're doomed,'' Gibbs said. ``Because somebody's going to give you a knuckle sandwich.''

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