- The Washington Times - Monday, October 14, 2002

Two major errors by the Washington Redskins' coverage teams undercut attempts to rally from deep deficits yesterday against the New Orleans Saints.
The Redskins surrendered a 90-yard kickoff return touchdown in the second quarter and an 83-yard punt return touchdown in the third quarter, both to Michael Lewis and both in situations where Washington otherwise was playing with a fair bit of confidence. The Redskins went on to lose 43-27 at FedEx Field.
Coach Steve Spurrier called it "very poor coverage," saying the units looked like "a bunch of guys who act like they're not really concerned about busting their tail, making a tackle."
"We have to play smarter as a special teams unit, and we have to play more disciplined," said linebacker Eddie Mason, who plays on virtually all of the special teams units. "We did not do what we needed to do to help our football team win today. There was a point in this game when we had the momentum, and we let our team down."
The first return came when Lewis fielded a mediocre kickoff by James Tuthill on the run and took advantage of sharp blocking along the left sideline. Ifeanyi Ohalete and Kevin Lockett were among those who got blocked along Lewis' path as he answered the Redskins' first touchdown and put New Orleans up 26-7.
"Kickoff return is all about timing," Mason said. "He catches it on the run and makes a great cut, he hits the seam and he's gone. He has speed. A guy like that, he hits the seam, you don't get his ankle or something, he's gone."
The punt coverage unit seemed a bit more out of position when Lewis struck again less than two minutes into the second half. Bryan Johnson was tripped up and Rock Cartwright was solidly blocked after Washington overpursued. Lewis ran along a well-formed wall and up the right sideline for a 36-21 lead less than four minutes after the Redskins pulled within five, 26-21.
"Returning punts and kicks is not just about running kamikazes," Mason said. "You've got to understand how to read returns. Maybe I need to do a better job as one of the team leaders as far as teaching guys how to read returns so they can adjust their coverage lanes when we cover kicks and punts."

Staunch D-line
Washington's defensive line had its most spirited effort and probably its best performance of the season in the losing effort.
Among those standing out were defensive ends Bruce Smith and Renaldo Wynn two of team's most highly paid players who had been relatively silent during the season's early going and defensive tackle Daryl Gardener. Wynn led Washington with seven tackles; Gardener, continuing his sharp recent play, had six; and Smith added five.
"We wanted to come out and start fast, and take it upon ourselves as a defensive line unit," Wynn said. "It starts up front. Every guy on that D-line fought like heck. In the first half, I don't think there was one play they could have run at us that would have produced positive yardage."
The line's strong play keyed the emotion of Washington's defense, which held New Orleans to field goals after two early interceptions left the Saints inside the Redskins' 10. And the line forced Saints running back Deuce McAllister to the outside as the game progressed. However, he was fairly successful there, finishing with 121 yards on 29 carries.
"Overall," coach Steve Spurrier said of the defense, "we probably played decent except for those third downs."

Flubbed field position
The Saints' average starting field position was in Redskins' territory and that's not even including the two returns for touchdowns.
The Saints started their drives at the Redskins' 48, on average, while Washington got the ball at its 22. Much of New Orleans' bounty came from Washington's four turnovers on its first four drives. Suspect coverage also contributed.
"We kick off, they start on the 35, 40; they kick off, we're lucky to get back to the 20," coach Steve Spurrier said. "That's when you know when you're just getting your butt kicked. They just outhustled us. They just outplayed."

Ohalete's wild day
Washington's emotionally charged defense dealt New Orleans a three-and-out on the game's first series when Ifeayni Ohalete teamed with fellow safety David Terrell to tackle halfback Deuce McAllister three yards shy of the first down. However, Ohalete was flagged for taunting McAllister and the Saints were awarded 15 yards and a first down.
"[McAllister] got up and I told him I was going to be here all day and they called a taunting penalty," Ohalete said. "I was really shocked. There was way worse stuff said out there than that. But there was a lot of jawing going on before the game. Maybe they were trying to make an example out of me to keep things under control."
Later in the quarter, Ohalete couldn't control Boo Williams in the end zone and the tight end beat him for the 2-yard touchdown catch that made it 13-0.
Ohalete, along with Eddie Mason and Kevin Mitchell the only Redskins who play on all four kick coverage and return teams, was on the field as New Orleans' Michael Lewis returned a kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown and took a punt 83 yards to the house. Washington had been ranked 26th covering punts but fifth covering kickoffs.
"On the punt, I was on the right side and I tried to cut back and get Lewis, but he was too fast," Ohalete said. "On the kickoff return, they just made a play."
Despite those troubles, Ohalete did have a bright, shining moment. With Washington having closed within 26-14, he stepped in front of Saints receiver Jerome Pathon and picked off Aaron Brooks' third-and-17 pass and dashed 78 yards to the end zone.
"[Cornerback] Fred [Smoot] and I switched coverages," Ohalete explained. "Pathon came across and I jumped him. I knew I was gone as soon as I caught the ball. It was a good feeling. It got us within five points, but it was downhill from there,"

Straight up game plan
Conventional wisdom says you blitz frequently when facing a rookie quarterback.
However, the Tennessee Titans found out last week that plan can be a recipe for disaster as Redskins rookie quarterback Patrick Ramsey completed 20 of 34 passes for 268 yards and two touchdowns. The New Orleans Saints weren't going to make the same mistake against Ramsey.
Saints coach Jim Haslett decided to play Ramsey straight up no blitzes, no stunts and no gimmicks. Haslett wanted to see if Ramsey could beat his defense. And if that strategy was going to be effective, the Saints coach needed the defensive line to dominate, which it did.
"We know [Ramsey] doesn't run the ball, but we thought that he has so much confidence in his arm that he'll throw into coverage," Haslett said. "He will take his shots and our guys will have opportunities to get some interceptions. All you have to do is catch them and it played out that way. We decided to play more coverage and let the four guys rush."
The Saints gave Ramsey a rude awakening. The rookie threw four interceptions and was sacked seven times for negative 56 yards. Saints right end Darren Howard, a third-year man out of Kansas State, sacked Ramsey three times for losses totaling 24 yards.
The Redskins offensive line collapsed all game long and Ramsey took a beating.
"We just lined up and beat our man one-on-one," Howard said. "We gave them pressure up the middle, around the sides, it was a good day for our defensive line."

I missed you in Mobile
Saints end Darren Howard said he had added incentive going into this game knowing he was going up against Redskins Pro Bowl left tackle Chris Samuels. The 6-foot-3, 281-pound Howard tied a career-high with three sacks and they all came against Samuels.
"I felt it was an extra challenge," Howard said. "He came out for the Senior Bowl in 2000 and didn't play. I wanted to go against him then and see what level I was on, but he didn't play, so I never got a chance to go against him. I was motivated to go out there and compete this week."

Davis' knee OK
Running back Stephen Davis said his sprained knee "didn't give me any trouble" after he finished with 51 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown run, on 14 carries. He also had a 9-yard reception.
The Saints' large lead essentially shelved Davis, though. After just five third-quarter carries, Davis didn't have a carry in the fourth quarter. Running back Ladell Betts' 3-yard carry in the final series was the Redskins' only fourth-quarter run.
Davis' first-quarter fumble occurred when he tried to stretch a 3-yard run, but the ball was batted out of his hands and New Orleans gained possession at the Washington 15. That led to a Saints' touchdown and 13-0 lead.
"I was fighting for extra yards and the ball popped out," Davis said.
Meanwhile, guard Brenden Stai and tight end Zeron Flemister both suffered knee injuries, but are expected to play against Green Bay on Sunday. Quarterback Patrick Ramsey, who came down on his left knee during a first-quarter hit, had his knee wrapped but shrugged off any talk about the injury.

Backup battle
Kenny Watson and Ladell Betts continued their tight competition for the No. 2 running back slot as both contributed with big plays. The two have been close since the start of training camp but Watson got the early edge as the kickoff returner. However, Betts may have earned the return job after he averaged 22.9 yards on seven returns against the Saints.
"Kickoff returns is all about timing," Betts said. "You don't have time to make a lot of moves. Hopefully, you get the crease and take it all the way."
Watson continued to be a playmaker, scoring on a 62-yard pass with 14:06 remaining in the game. Watson caught four passes for a team-high 74 yards.
"It was pretty easy," Watson said of the score. "Everybody did their job and all I had to do was run to the end zone. That was a big lane."
Betts' 40-yard reception to the New Orleans' 5 earlier in the game led to Washington's first touchdown.
"I didn't even know I was going in until coach Spurrier called my name," Betts said. "I happened to be wide open. "

Inactives
Defensive ends Otis Leverette and Greg Scott, tight end Leonard Stephens, linebacker Antonio Pierce, guards David Loverne and Kipp Vickers and receiver Darnerien McCants were inactive.
David Elfin, Jody Foldesy, Rick Snider


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