Change in defensive strategy and remarkable hot streak by St. Louis quarterback Jim Hart were the major reasons for Washington's fourth-quarter collapse yesterday, according to several of the Redskins involved.
"I don't know if we were playing conservative or what," defensive tackle Dave Butz said. "But in the fourth quarter we started going just straight ahead -- no stunts from the linemen, just everybody off the ball and stay in their lane and go straight ahead."
It wasn't until Mark Moseley's field goal had put them back in the lead, 30-28, with 36 seconds to play, that the Redskins started stunting again. They stopped the Cardinal drove to a possible winning field goal when Butz batted down Hart's fourth down pass from the Washington 44 with nine seconds left.
"We shouldn't have to wait and do that stunting, though," said Coy Bacon. "We should try to do it the entire game. That's what I'm trying to say. We don't want to put ourselves in this predicament."
The conservative defense was only part of the reason for the predicament. Hart was the rest of it.
"Every quarterback gets that hot once or twice in his life," Diron Talbert said. "When Hart throws the ball like that, he's hard to stop."
Given time to throw in the fourth quarter, Hart who completed six of 22 the first three quarters, completed 11 of 12 passes during the Cardinals' three touchdown drives.
The Redskins had stunted with a good deal of sucess earlier in the game. In fact, the visitors did not convert a third down until the last quarter and on their first five possessions of the second half and the ball for a grand total of 5:43.
So why did they stop stunting?
Pinned down an hour after the game, Coach Jack Pardee finally came up with two reasons: the wet field and St. Louis halfback Ottis Anderson.
"We had to be careful of matchups," the coach said. "Sometimes when we'd go nickel (five defensive backs, two linebackers), they'd try to go with two tight ends to run the ball.
"So with a runner like Anderson you have a be careful to the type of pass rush, type of coverage you're in, because he can run for 40 yards as well as Hart can throw for 40.
"We had a good pass rush," he noted, "And, then all of a sudden --I don't know if they were catching on or what -- the pass rush got away, except when we dogged them a time or two.
"They hit us with enough runs that we couldn't abandon our run defense. And they did a good job mixing their run-pass situations so we couldn't get in a groove against them and know when to stunt."
Of the wet field, Pardee said:
"You see, on stunts you go side-ways. The wet field really hurts the pass rush more than any other part of the game."
Butz said the Cardinal hurry-up offense complicated matters even more for the Redskins.
"They started coming out (of the huddle) pretty fast on us and we started getting our signals a little late . . .
"Things get hectic. They start going a little faster and the faster an offense goes, the tougher it is for the defense to get set -- to get our proper stances, proper defenses, proper reads, see what special personnel they've got in the game.
"You've got to be able to come out of the huddle and look at the offensive linemen. The secondary has to see who's in the backfield, what formation they're in, see what kind of receivers they have in. You've got to get out of the (defensive) huddle, get on the line and do all that."
While things were becoming more confused for the Redskins on defense, the straight pass rush was making things simpler for Hart and the Cardinal offense.
Butz: "It (the straight rush) isn't complicated at all for the offensive linemen to pick up. And Jim doesn't have to worry about anybody coming in and blind-siding him, because he can see everybody straight in front of him. We started dealing (stunting); like we were doing earlier. It made it very hard to pick up everyone and it rushed his throws a little bit.
"It was the second time we've done that. The other time was New Orleans (a 14-10 loss two weeks ago)."
Against New Orleans, the Redskins also were playing a team with good runners, who frequently ran on third and six and third and eight, Pardee said. r
But unlike the New Orleans game, when the offense couldn't make the big plays, yesterday both offense and defense clicked at the end. Still, the Cardinal offense left many Redskin defenders shaking their heads in amazement.
"It's kind of explosive, isn't it," linebacker Pete Wysocki said. "Cardiac Cardinals -- they call themselves that. And I guess it's a legit name. I'm sure our guys aged a little bit playing against them.
" it wasn't a very tidy win. It's like killing a horse with a razor blade.
But we'll take it. It looks real nice in that left (win) column."