- The Washington Times - Monday, October 4, 2004

CLEVELAND — Blitzing is risky business.

If the blitzer gets to the quarterback and disrupts the play, the strategy looks brilliant. If not, a defense can get badly burned because there are not enough players in pass coverage.

The latter is what happened to the Washington Redskins yesterday in their 17-13 loss to the Cleveland Browns.

The Redskins defense had allowed four touchdowns in its first 3 games but gave up two in the second half against the Browns yesterday. One came on a catch by a tight end left wide open by blitzing strong side linebacker Marcus Washington; the other came at the end of a drive that included two critical completions against blitzes.

“I kind of gambled and came up short,” Washington said of a 15-yard touchdown reception by Aaron Shea that made the score 10-10 with 12:30 left in the third quarter. “That was my guy. It’s a tough feeling. You can’t wait to get back in there and try to make something else happen.”

The Redskins held the Browns to just 17 yards on their next three series, but when Cleveland took over at its 20 with 11:29 left, the defense gambled and came up short again.

On third-and-8 from the 43, the defense wasn’t set at the snap and Browns receiver Quincy Morgan got behind Redskins nickel back Walt Harris for a 14-yard catch.

Three plays later, middle linebacker Antonio Pierce blitzed and free safety Sean Taylor was torched by wideout Andra Davis for 23 yards. Pierce’s roughing the passer penalty put the ball on the Washington 3.

Lee Suggs punched it over on the next play for the winning touchdown.

Gregg Williams, the Redskins’ assistant coach for defense, declined to comment after the game.

His players, however, backed their coach’s scheme, one that helped turn a unit ranked 25th in the league last season into the NFL’s No.3 defense before yesterday.

With no serious pass rusher up front, Williams reasoned the only way to get pressure on the quarterback is to blitz his linebackers and defensive backs. And playing without injured starters LaVar Arrington, Mike Barrow and Phillip Daniels doesn’t help.

“Gregg is putting us in perfect position,” Pierce said. “We’ve just got to make the plays.”

But opposing offenses increasingly are making plays against Washington.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New York Giants each hit just one play of more than 20 yards the first two weeks, but the Dallas Cowboys converted four last week and the Browns clicked on three yesterday.

This from a Browns offense that came in ranked 28th and whose quarterback, Jeff Garcia, posted a 0.0 rating against the Cowboys two weeks ago. Yesterday, Garcia’s rating was 112.2.

“I can’t say the blitzes hurt us,” Smoot said. “That’s what helps us. That’s what we do. Nobody has showed that they’re a pure-out better team than we did. Right now nothing is going our way. We’ve got to find a way to stop beating ourselves.”

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