- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 16, 2005

It was the kind of break, Gregg Williams later would say, that isn’t supposed to happen in the NFL.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, trailing for the first time all game, faced a third-and-9 from their own 47-yard line late in the third quarter.

Williams, who had used a semi-conservative game plan — almost exclusively four- and five-man rushes — against quarterback Chris Simms up to that point, decided it was time to take a chance. The Washington Redskins rushed eight players, leaving cornerbacks Shawn Springs, Walt Harris and Carlos Rogers in man coverage with no downfield help.

As a result, safety Ryan Clark was unblocked coming from Simms’ left side, a potentially critical mistake by the Tampa Bay offensive front.

“Coaches are too good in this league and prepare too well that when you pressure the quarterback, you can’t always guarantee there will be a free rusher,” said Williams, the Redskins’ assistant head coach-defense. “When there is, it’s usually a mistake the offense has made.”

But in a play that was a perfect example of the Redskins’ struggles in getting to Simms on Sunday, Clark was a split second late, and Simms threw a 46-yard pass to Edell Shepherd, who had beaten Rogers. Two plays later, the Bucs tied the score at 28-28.

“In Carlos’ defense on that play, we have to get to [Simms],” Williams said. “When we commit to the rush and commit to the blitz the way we did, we have to win the 1-on-1 battle. We didn’t win those that would have helped the coverage and possibly made a difference in the ballgame.

“Coverage works hand in hand with the pass rush. You have to do things in rushing the quarterback to not allow the route to get down the field as deep as they were.”

In Sunday’s 36-35 loss to the Buccaneers, the Redskins’ defense posted no sacks for the third time in a game this season. Before facing the Redskins, Simms had been sacked 10 times in two games, prompting Fox analyst Jimmy Johnson to call Simms “a sack waiting to happen.” Against the Redskins, he wasn’t sacked in 30 drop-backs — 28 pass attempts (not including a stop-the-clock spike) and two scrambles.

The Redskins’ 14 sacks are tied for 26th in the NFL, and they’re on pace to come up short of last year’s 40.

The lack of sacks has been amplified by a pass defense that has fallen from first before the Philadelphia game two games ago to ninth entering this week’s contest against Oakland. They have allowed nine pass completions of at least 24 yards in the last two games. Simms threw for three touchdowns and 279 yards against a Redskins secondary that was without Sean Taylor, out with an ankle injury.

“Blitzing is technique, just like covering and just like tackling,” safety Matt Bowen said. “We just have to keep working on it. That’s the best way and the only way to put it.”

In facing a young quarterback for the third time this season, Williams chose a strategy he employed against Chicago rookie Kyle Orton in Week1. Instead of using myriad blitzes, the Redskins played coverage against the Bucs, sending five or more rushers only 11 times in 30 drop-backs. The Redskins rushed four defenders on 16 drop-backs.

When the Redskins did send extra bodies, it wasn’t successful. Against a five-man rush, Simms was 4-for-9 for 78 yards, including a 30-yard touchdown with 58 seconds remaining. In one snap apiece against a six- and eight-man rush, Simms completed passes for 4 and 46 yards.

Phillip Daniels, who was often double-teamed from his defensive end position, said if the Redskins didn’t have a reputation for being so aggressive, teams might send out more receivers, which could loosen things up for the defensive line.

“If we weren’t a pressure team, I feel like teams would play a little more honest,” he said. “The way we play, if you don’t get there, you’re in trouble. They know you’re coming with a blitz, and they go with a three-step drop and throw it. Either way, it’s stacked against you as far as the sack numbers because they have max protect or three steps and the ball is gone.”

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