- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 9, 2001

Washington Redskins defensive players credited a revived attitude and a simplification of the scheme for Sunday's sharp performance against the New York Giants.

The Redskins lost 23-9 but their defense, despite being hampered by key injuries, stopped the Giants in crucial situations and gave Washington (0-4) its first competitive game in a fourth quarter this season.

The defense held up even though the offense repeatedly failed to reciprocate. The Redskins had three fourth-quarter possessions to tie but quarterback Tony Banks sandwiched two interceptions around a three-and-out.

"I went to every one of the players on defense and I told them how proud I was of them," linebacker LaVar Arrington said yesterday. "If you have a defensive effort like we had you win the game. … We fought until they kneeled on the ball, and I can't say it's always been that way."

The Giants averaged 3.1 yards a carry after the Kansas City Chiefs got 5.6 in a 45-13 victory over Washington on Sept. 30. Although Giants reserve Damon Washington gained 90 yards on 25 carries after starter Ron Dayne sprained his neck, the Redskins did not allow a 100-yard rusher for the first time this season.

Particularly impressive was the fact the defense stepped up even though left end Marco Coleman and weakside linebacker Shawn Barber were out and right end Bruce Smith was lost 2-to-3 weeks on the unit's first snap.

First-year defensive tackle Jerry DeLoach played well after being pulled at halftime against the Chiefs. Undrafted rookie linebacker Antonio Pierce made strides in his second start. Recently acquired end Tyrone Williams pressured Giants passer Kerry Collins in place of Smith. First-year defensive tackle Delbert Cowsette made a nice backfield hit.

And that was just the young role players. Among key veterans defensive lineman Kenard Lang continued to dominate in place of Coleman, middle linebacker Kevin Mitchell had his best game as a Redskin and Arrington, the strongside starter, played through a partially torn MCL for the best game of his young career.

"The one thing I [saw] in this game, more than the previous three games, was even if a guy made a mistake he had guys covering for him," defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson said. "Our first couple of games, a guy made a mistake and it really showed."

Inspiring the defense were several factors, including embarrassment from the Sept. 30 performance, Monday's clear-the-air meeting and a speech by veteran cornerback Darrell Green on Saturday night. Green declined comment on what he said to the team but several teammates acknowledged its role in the solid effort.

"When you hear a guy talk like that, everybody was behind him on it. We just carried that over to the game," cornerback Champ Bailey said, explaining that Green told teammates, "'Remember why you play. It's not about money. It's about enjoying it, kicking the mess out of the next guy.'"

Added Arrington: "It played a huge part in my approach. I knew I was going to go out there and gut it out, but I had no idea I was going to be Hollywood."

Also helping was a reduction of the Redskins' defensive package from six or seven sets to just two or three. The adjustments off each set also were simplified.

"It made it easier to react," Mitchell said. "You knew what you were doing. There's no thinking just reaction and playing."

Now the defense's challenge is to continue performing Monday night at Dallas even though the offense is likely to keep struggling. The Redskins should have the services of Arrington, who said he suffered no setbacks by playing, and Bailey, who twisted his ankle Sunday but expects to play. And defensive end Dorian Boose, usually the first end off the bench, returns from a one-game suspension.

Likely out will be Coleman, who continues to recover from a dislocated elbow. Smith definitely will not play. He underwent an MRI in the morning, which showed no structural damage but did not yield enough information to update the amount of time he should miss.

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