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Redskins' Game 1 revival all about the defense

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Nice Article here on the skins :cheers:

Redskins' Game 1 revival all about the defense

Sept. 12, 2004

By Clark Judge

SportsLine.com Senior Writer

LANDOVER, Md. -- Yes, Joe Gibbs is officially back with Washington. So is a rushing attack, success and the hope of a playoff season. But there is something we're forgetting here, and it was never more apparent than in the closing moments of Washington's 16-10 victory over Tampa Bay on Sunday.

I'm talking about the defense.

Rave all you want about Clinton Portis, his 148 yards rushing and 64-yard touchdown, but Portis wasn't the difference in Washington's 500th franchise victory. The defense was, choking off Tampa Bay again and again -- including three sacks on the Bucs' final three plays from scrimmage.

"I can't talk enough about the defense," said Gibbs, back as the team's coach. "They kept us in the game. They made big plays, got turnovers and had sacks. If you had to talk about one thing for us, certainly, it would be the defense."

That's not the way it has been around here. The Redskins ran through defensive coordinators the way most people run through laundry, with one player moaning about five different systems in five years. But if Sunday's results are an indication, they seem to have settled on a keeper.

Gregg Williams, take a bow.

Maybe you remember him as the former head coach of Buffalo. I remember him as the former defensive coordinator for Tennessee, so good that when Baltimore set all those defensive records in 2000 en route to the Super Bowl, it wasn't the Ravens who led the league in defense; it was Tennessee coached by -- you got it -- Gregg Williams, now the Redskins' assistant head coach.

Williams has a reputation for attacking opponents aggressively, and that reputation was only enhanced with his latest effort. Washington dumped beleaguered quarterback Brad Johnson four times, intercepted him once, made him fumble once, played five consecutive series before allowing a first down and surrendered only 169 yards for the afternoon -- 65 in the first half.

It was football the way its supposed to be played, only the Redskins haven't played it like this since, well, since last year's season opener when they held the New York Jets to 158 yards in a 16-13 victory. It was the last time an opponent had fewer than 261 yards, and that was a factor, a key factor, in the demise of Steve Spurrier.

But Spurrier didn't stress defense or turnovers. Gibbs does. And Spurrier didn't have Williams aboard. Or defensive coordinator Greg Blache. Or linebackers coach Dale Lindsey. Or secondary coach DeWayne Walker. They're proven, especially Williams, and collapses like last year's aren't likely.

But performances like Sunday's weren't supposed to be, either. Remember, Washington was the league's 25th-ranked defense a year ago, and if there was a defensive highlight from Sunday's season opener, in all likelihood it was going to come from Tampa Bay.

Uh-huh, right.

"When they talk about defensive play whom do they talk about?" asked safety Matt Bowen, who had two sacks of Johnson. "Tampa and Baltimore. Well, we wanted to show we can make sacks, too. We pretty much wanted to dictate to them, which is pretty much how New England won last year. I think that's what the NFL has evolved into."


It will be a good thing if it's the way Washington evolves, too. For all their weapons, the Redskins would not have prevailed in Gibbs' return were it not for Williams' suffocating unit. Basically, it allowed one field goal, and that was only because Tampa Bay's Frank Murphy returned a kickoff to the Washington 34.

The Bucs' touchdown? It was a Ronde Barber return of a Portis fumble. Nothing more. Tampa Bay had 30 yards rushing, produced an average of three yards a snap and looked nothing, absolutely nothing, like the club that hammered the Redskins 35-13 last season.

"This is only one game," cautioned Williams. "We have 15 games left."

He makes a good point, but there was so much attention given to this one -- mostly because of Gibbs -- that it's hard to ignore what happened. Or what didn't happen. Gibbs' strength as a head coach is that he knows when to intervene and he knows when not to, and he stays away from his defensive coaches so much that "they're pretty much autonomous," he said. Smart idea.

"The only time that he comes down and wants to know anything is when we're going to stop them?" Williams said. "He's a great head coach in that respect."

After the victory, Gibbs conceded it meant more to him than anyone could imagine, saying "for me, personally, it was a big deal."

Apparently. Even his wife, Pat, told him that "I don't know when you've ever wanted one like this." But Gibbs wasn't alone there. It was a big deal for the entire coaching staff, with Williams saying that he'd been working on a game plan since the schedule was released last spring.

"In certain practices we were working on -- and players didn't know it -- but we were working on Tampa Bay plays," said Williams. "We didn't tell them what it was."

They know now. And so do the Bucs.

"We wanted to make a statement," said cornerback Fred Smoot. "We wanted to let them know the Redskins have a defense, too. "

I think they got the idea. Maybe the rest of the league will, too.

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this is the same guy who wrote three days before:

Peek at the Week: Bucs-Redskins highlight Week 1

Sept. 10, 2004

By Clark Judge

SportsLine.com Senior Writer

Tell Clark your opinion!


Game of the week

Tampa Bay at Washington, 1 p.m. ET

Redskins' fans believe they have a playoff team, their first since 1999, and it's all because there's another multi-million dollar coach in town. Excuse me, but didn't we hear this battle cry when Steve Spurrier was hired? Or was that Marty Schottenheimer? This time, fans say, it's different because the coach is Joe Gibbs, who won three Super Bowls with the Redskins and made it to the Hall of Fame. They may be right, but Gibbs will have to do it the hard way: he lost his starting right tackle, Jon Jansen, for the season. Look for Gibbs to feature a lot of running back Clinton Portis, a short passing game and field goals. Plenty of field goals. When Gibbs coached Washington in the 1980s his place kicker went to bat so often and swung so well he became the league MVP.

Something you might want to consider: Gibbs lost his first five games when he started with the Redskins in 1981. Yeah, I know this is different, but he's up against a team that won the Super Bowl only 17 games ago. :laugh:

I will be in Washington covering the Buccaneers-Redskins game, mostly because I want to see Daniel Snyder's reaction when new coach Joe Gibbs unveils John Riggins as his starting tailback.

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