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PAUL WOODY: Skins, Pats in chess game


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Skins, Pats in chess game

Washington needs answers to schemes




Usually, coaches send in plays to the quarterback or middle linebacker.

Today, New England coach Bill Belichick and Washington coach Steve Spurrier might send in chess moves.

Coaches often describe what takes place on a football field as a series of chess moves, with one side reacting to what the other side does. Today's game between the Patriots and Redskins might become a chess game, if you can imagine one where the pieces not only move across the board but also attempt to knock one another out in the process.

Belichick has the well-earned reputa- tion for possessing one of the NFL's sharpest defensive minds.

"His trademark is that he creates a different game plan for each team," Spurrier said.

When Belichick was the defensive coordinator for the New York Giants, he devised the defenses that stymied the potent offenses of the Joe Gibbs-coached Redskins in the 1980s. Belichick's most famous defensive job came in Super Bowl XXXVI when, as the Patriots head coach, he developed a plan to contain the ultra-offensive St. Louis Rams. New England won the game 20-17.

New England has a lot of schemes," Spurrier said. "Sometimes they blitz a lot. Sometimes they rush three and cover with eight. His teams don't do the same thing each week.

"You can't be ready for everything he might do. Sometimes the best thing to do is have a bunch of plays, then come to the ballpark and figure out what the other guy's doing and go from there."

Spurrier has a reputation for designing offenses that create a multitude of problems for a defense. With the hot passing arm of Patrick Ramsey, the virtuoso performance of wide receiver Laveranues Coles, depth at wide receiver and a capable running game, Spurrier's offense enters today's game as the No.1-ranked unit.

"Steve has a real good understanding of defenses and coverage and he tries to attack those coverages where they are the weakest," Belichick said. "He creates problems in the passing game with the formations and the players he puts there."

Underlying the strategy portion of the game is a bit of ill-will between the players.

The Patriots defeated the Redskins in a preseason game this summer. Afterward, some Redskins complained about the tactics the Patriots used.

"They were shooting low with their blocks," said outside linebacker LaVar Arrington. "You don't like to see a team play 'dirty' in a preseason game."

Asked whether retribution will be on his mind today, Arrington smiled.

"We just lost," he said of the Redskins' 24-21 loss to the New York Giants last Sunday. "We need to win. That's what's on my mind. I could not care less how they block."

Belichick will have more on his mind than where the Redskins line up their receivers. He has to figure out how to stop Spurrier's offense when a number of front-line Patriots are either out altogether or hobbling.

Three key defensive starters - linebackers Rosevelt Colvin and Ted Johnson and tackle Ted Washington - will not play. Colvin is out for the season. Linebacker Mike Vrabel is doubtful, while two defensive backs, cornerback Ty Law and safety Je'Rod Cherry, are far less than 100 percent. Even quarterback Tom Brady has a sore arm.

"It's been a challenging week," Belichick said. "We've got a couple of guys banged up. We have a big challenge in front of us. We'll have to make adjustments and changes in what we've been doing."

Only one thing seems certain. Someone will declare checkmate at the end of the day. This is not a game likely to end in a stalemate.

Contact Paul Woody at (804) 649-6444 or pwoody@timesdispatch.com

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