Correction to This Article
The Oct. 8 Sports column incorrectly said that the Tennessee Titans and St. Louis Rams played in the 2001 Super Bowl. They played in the Super Bowl in January 2000.

By Showing Restraint, Williams Sacks Lions

"I wish I could tell you there was a [heck] of a lot of smart things going on, but there wasn't," assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams said. (By Preston Keres -- The Washington Post)
By Mike Wise
Monday, October 8, 2007

Viewers at home saw an in-game split-screen displayed with about eight minutes left; Gregg Williams framed in one square, Mike Martz in the other. Two of the premier coordinators of the past decade, sullen and serious, playing chess on opposite sidelines.

After Demetric Evans threw Jon Kitna to the ground and Sean Taylor intercepted the quarterback who came in with the most passing yards in the NFL, Martz looked as pained as Kitna. The mastermind of the Detroit offense -- the brash assistant who receives more TV cut-away shots than Lions head coach Rod Marinelli -- had been trumped by an equally cocksure and talented innovator on the other side.

Score it: Recovering Defensive Genius 34, Egocentric Offensive Wizard 3.

Of all the tests before Williams the past three-plus years, the Lions represented maybe the biggest. Never mind the numbers; Detroit didn't roll into FedEx Field as the most potent or dangerous offense the Redskins' defensive boss had seen.

But Martz has played mind games with so many, daring defensive coordinators to bring the house with a blitz and take his quarterback down before the yards and touchdowns pile up. In a maximum-protection league, Martz is more "mini-pro." No one stays back to block. Everybody and their mom goes out for a pass.

Williams, whom former Redskins tight end Rick "Doc" Walker affectionately refers to as "the Animal Trainer," has the kind of Type A, aggressive personality that would play right into Martz's hands. Martz is a guy who has had Williams's number. In their most high-stakes showdown, the 2001 Super Bowl between the Tennessee Titans and the St. Louis Rams, Martz's Rams were better by a foot.

Two weeks ago, the Giants threw and ran on Washington's fatigued defense in the second half -- a collapse that included the return of the big play Williams had worked so hard to eliminate in the offseason through acquisitions such as London Fletcher and the development of young linemen. His reputation slipped as much as Joe Gibbs's last season. He needed to find a way to stop a club that had scored an NFL-record 34 points on Chicago in the fourth quarter, 20 of them from the offense.

So what did Williams do yesterday? He remembered the film on the Lions, swallowed his stubborn pride and all but abandoned the blitz. He could not remember that ever happening in Washington.

"All last year and this year, there is nobody in the National Football League that gets more maximum protections than us," Williams said afterward. "Because they say, 'There goes Williams, blitzing again.' This week we didn't get it."

The Animal Trainer stopped salivating and adjusted. He took what Martz gave him. They relied on their front four to pressure Kitna, who was dropped like a rag doll five times and had to run for his hide many more, and often dropped extra defenders into coverage.

"Those safeties were 30 yards deep," Lions wide receiver Roy Williams said. "You can't throw deep. They just sat back 25 to 30 yards deep and made you run."

This might have been the most complete performance by a Joe Gibbs-led team in almost three years.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2007 The Washington Post Company