- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 6, 2009

Ever-candid Redskins coach Jim Zorn nicely described the gap between Washington’s offense and that of the undefeated New Orleans Saints.

Zorn was asked about usually aggressive Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams rarely bringing the farm against Tom Brady, Randy Moss and the potent New England Patriots in New Orleans’ victory Monday.

“With Tom back there and with the weapons they have down the field with Moss and all their guys, I think [focusing on coverage] was the strategy,” said Zorn, whose Redskins host the Saints on Sunday. “I don’t think we’ll have that same respect from Gregg. We’ve got problems in our offensive line. I think he’ll come after us.”

That just proves what a difference a year can make. In September 2008, the Redskins defeated the Saints 29-24 en route to both teams finishing 8-8.

This season, Sean Payton, a contender for coach of the year, has his 11-0 Saints ranked first in offense. Zorn has his 3-8 Redskins ranked 25th.

About the only thing the offenses have in common this season is injury woes.

The Redskins have lost 22 offensive starts to injury. Tight end Chris Cooley, left tackle Chris Samuels and right guard Randy Thomas are out for the season, and running back Clinton Portis will miss a fourth consecutive game Sunday.

The Saints have lost 18 offensive starts to injury. Left tackle Jammal Brown was gone before he protected standout quarterback Drew Brees’ blind side for even one down. Fullback Heath Evans is also on injured reserve, and running back Reggie Bush has missed the past two games.

The injuries haven’t slowed New Orleans.

“They didn’t dig themselves into a hole like we did,” said Washington running back Rock Cartwright, now the starter after carrying just once during the first seven games of the season. “They started fast, and we didn’t. They’ve got a quarterback playing exceptionally well. Last year, we started off hot and ran the ball exceptionally well. This year, we didn’t.”

The Saints won three of their first six games by at least 20 points, but the Redskins were 2-4 after losing to Detroit and Kansas City and eking past even worse Tampa Bay and St. Louis.

Redskins receiver Antwaan Randle El said the teams began the season with pretty much the same cast of characters on offense that they had last year, but he noted that Washington has struggled in close games. The Redskins are 2-6 in games decided by fewer than seven points. The Saints have played only one tight game.

“They’ve really come on strong. They’ve been together now for a while,” Zorn said of the seven offensive starters who were with the Saints in 2006. “Drew Brees is playing lights out. They utilize their weapons very well.”

Although Bush has started the majority of games at running back, backups Pierre Thomas and Mike Bell are one of just two duos to have rushed for at least 550 yards apiece. And New Orleans is one of just four teams whose starting receivers and tight end all have at least 475 receiving yards.

Portis (494 yards) is the closest Washington has to a 500-yard back, but Santana Moss (574 yards) is the only receiver with at least 500 yards.

“Each year is different,” Zorn said. “We’ve not had the good fortune to [keep] pace with that team, no question about it. We have the opportunity to play them again in our stadium. Our attitude is right to go out and compete. We’re looking forward to seeing what they’ve got.”

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