- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Because they are first-time NFL starters and occasionally are overeager, Rocky McIntosh and LaRon Landry sometimes miss a tackle, turn the wrong way in coverage or take the wrong route to the quarterback on a blitz.

Photo Gallery: Redskins visit the Eagles

But as the two young players showed in the Washington Redskins’ surprising win over the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday night, those are rare instances.

Most of the time, Landry, a rookie strong safety, and McIntosh, a second-year weak-side linebacker, are in the right place at the right time making the right play.

“Rocky and LaRon drive me nuts in the game, but then I have to smile because of how explosive and instinctive they are,” assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams said. “It’s a learning curve, and they were able to make big plays in key situations.”

In the biggest situation against the Eagles, Landry leveled receiver Kevin Curtis at the Washington 4-yard line just as he was catching Donovan McNabb’s pass on fourth down late in the fourth quarter, a hit that sealed the 20-12 victory for the Redskins.

Even though the season is only two games old, it’s already clear that when opponents get close to the goal-line, the Redskins have three new starters — Landry, McIntosh and middle linebacker London Fletcher — who can run and create havoc in a confined space.

McIntosh has 21 tackles, two sacks and one forced fumble. Landry has 10 tackles and a half-sack.

“Those guys fly around and get to the ball with a nasty attitude,” strong-side Marcus Washington said yesterday at Redskin Park. “It’s fun to watch them play. They’re getting to the ball in such a hurry.”

That has especially been the case in the red zone, where Miami and Philadelphia went a combined 1-for-7. The Redskins are tied for second in that category, and they have allowed only one touchdown in the first two games of the season for the first time since 1975 and only the third time since 1943.

The Eagles had success offensively until they got inside the Washington 20-yard line.

The other 80 yards of the field: 55 snaps for 313 yards.

Inside the 20: 14 plays for 27 yards, including eight that gained less than 2 yards.

The Eagles reached the Washington 7-, 8- and 4-yard lines only to stall and settle for field goals by David Akers. They reached the 9-yard line in the game’s waning moments before Landry’s hit on fourth down ended Philadelphia’s hopes and dropped the Eagles to 0-2.

Landry and McIntosh were on the field for all of those situations. Williams is confident that if asked to blitz, they will do so effectively; if asked to play coverage, they will take care of their responsibilities; and if asked to stuff the run, they will fly to the football.

“Our red-zone defense won the ballgame,” Fletcher said. “That was the key to the game. For the offense to give us 20 points, we feel like that’s enough for us to win.”

Said Washington: “Mentally, it does a lot because teams are making plays and making plays and then we’re like, ‘We’ve got to tighten up. We’ve got to man up.’ Giving up three instead of seven is a big thing.”

Williams also singled out the play of the front four. The Redskins didn’t blitz often against the Eagles, but the defensive linemen, even without starting end Phillip Daniels, were effective in forcing McNabb to slide around or even vacate the pocket and throw to Brian Westbrook in the flat or a receiver coming back toward the line of scrimmage. McNabb’s longest completion was 19 yards.

The Redskins have five sacks this season — they didn’t reach five sacks last year until halfway through Week 4.

“We’ve gotten a whole lot better in that area,” defensive tackle Kedric Golston said. “The guys are really attacking up front and have it set in our mind that every time the ball is snapped we want to make a play.”

And when an opponent has to catch a pass flat-footed, look out. Sean Taylor’s reputation is known around the league. Now Landry and McIntosh can rattle the chin strap. Another test comes Sunday. Although the New York Giants are 0-2, it isn’t because of their offense, which ranks ninth in yards and second in rushing.

“Our guys did a very good job of executing what we wanted done in the red zone,” Williams said Monday night. “I was really pleased with our defensive pressure from the front four. When we had to bring it in blitz situations, we were able to get there, but our front four kept Donovan moving off his spot a bunch, and that was good.

“It’s only the second game of the year. We have to manage the success.”

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