WASHINGTON — If the Washington Redskins didn't know this already, they learned it last Monday night: When the personnel changes and decisions work just right, a football game can be a wondrous thing.
In so many ways, the choices that the Redskins (2-3) made last week touched their 27-10 victory over St. Louis (3-2) and will send them into today's game with Detroit (3-2) at RFK Stadium brimming with confidence.
"It's a good feeling," said Coach Joe Gibbs. "We have done it."
Viewed as a myriad of decisions, the St. Louis game proves that shaking up a team can do it some good.
Punter Steve Cox, signed to replace injured Jeff Hayes, pleased the Redskins to no end with his 47.2-yard average and quick release in the face of a steady rush on his four punts.
Although "a couple" of his four kickoffs didn't stretch as far as the Redskins would have liked, Gibbs said, Cox certainly has become every bit the replacement the Redskins wanted and needed for Hayes on the overhauled special teams.
"I thought Steve did a great job," said special teams coach Wayne Sevier. "He hadn't done anything for five weeks (after he was released by Cleveland), and I expect him to get better."
Both he and Gibbs said it's way too early to discuss what will happen when Hayes recovers from a partial tear of the right quadriceps (thigh).
"Jeff's hurt, and I don't think he'll be able to punt and kick off on that muscle for a long time," said Sevier. "We expect it to take more than four weeks (the injured reserve minimum)."
In each of the five games, Gibbs has tried something new on offense: an unbalanced line against Dallas; three tight ends against Houston; the I-formation with Clint Didier blocking against Philadelphia; the revival of the counter-trey block against Chicago, with Joe Jacoby and Russ Grimm pulling from the left side; and the four-wideout formation against St. Louis.
That strategy really was part of a package, Gibbs said. The Redskins dabbled in two tight ends and two wide receivers, in three tight ends, and in four wide receivers, which resulted the first time in Art Monk's 19-yard reception on the Redskins' third play of the game.
"We used four wide receivers because we have four good guys there to put into the game," Gibbs said.
There still is a question if Calvin Muhammad, who didn't catch a pass for the second time in the last three games, will be replaced in the starting lineup by Gary Clark, who caught a 10-yard touchdown pass Monday.
"Right now, Calvin starts, unless I say differently," Gibbs said.
Muhammad "didn't have that many opportunities when he was in there," Gibbs said.
Clark, "a real producer," according to Gibbs, undoubtedly will play more, even if he does not start.