Redskins Defense Turns In An Inspired Effort in Victory Over Buccaneers
Monday, October 5, 2009
While the turning point in Sunday's 16-13 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers likely was DeAngelo Hall's third-quarter interception, the turning point for an embattled defensive unit actually might have come a night earlier.
Nearly a week removed from a demoralizing loss at Detroit, Washington Redskins defensive players met in a conference room at the team hotel, as they do the night before every game, and listened to their defensive coordinator. Players say the urgency and the energy in Greg Blache's voice touched every man in the room. Blache, they say, was nearly in tears.
"The passion and the intensity of what he said," linebacker London Fletcher said, "it was amazing."
And they say it carried over into Sunday's game against the Bucs, in which the defense rebounded from a poor showing in Detroit and carried the Redskins to victory. Washington held Tampa Bay to 229 yards and forced two key turnovers. Bucs quarterback Josh Johnson, making his first NFL start, was held to 106 yards passing and was sacked three times.
Perhaps most importantly, the Redskins' defense was strong on third down. They entered the game as the league's worst third-down defense, as opponents had successfully converted 22 of 43 attempts. But on Sunday, the Bucs were successful on just 2 of 13 third-down tries, which gave the Redskins' offense a lot more time on the field.
"We needed it bad," Fletcher said of Sunday's performance. "We've been maligned this week. Our defensive coordinator was under fire. We didn't like that at all. We felt like it was definitely us and not his calls that were the reason we didn't play well against the Lions."
After the game, Coach Jim Zorn called the defense's performance "incredible."
"I can't wait to watch it because it was a great effort," he said. "That's what kept us in the ballgame."
Players cited Saturday night's emotional meeting as both a wake-up call and a catalyst. Blache described his speech simply: "It was just sincere."
"We were at a point in the season where you had to stand up, we had to change, we had to draw a line in the dirt," he said.
According to players, Blache talked about being a man, playing as a man, taking responsibility for specific assignments, execution and effort and fulfilling potential. By the time he was finished, "you were ready to run through a brick wall for him," Fletcher said.
Zorn and Blache were both pleased with the results: an aggressive defense that consistently executed plays. They slowed the Bucs' struggling offense and shifted momentum to their own quarterback.