Ever since wide receiver Calvin Muhammad was acquired to replace injured Charlie Brown, many have wondered what the Washington Redskins' offense would be like with those two and Art Monk in the lineup together.
Yesterday at RFK Stadium, the Buffalo Bills did not enjoy being the first team to find out.
Monk, who began the game as the National Football League's leading receiver, with 71 receptions, caught 11 passes for 104 yards and a touchdown in Washington's 41-14 victory. Muhammad, an Oct. 3 acquisition from the Los Angeles Raiders, averaged 24.3 yards on four receptions.
Brown, playing for the first time since incurring a stress fracture in his right leg in the season's fifth game, caught four passes for 68 yards and a touchdown.
Although the Bills said they anticipated Brown being reactivated for the game, they did not expect him to become as much as a factor as he was. They said they adjusted some coverages and played more man to man than normal.
"You always have to account for a receiver like Charlie Brown," said Buffalo Coach Kay Stephenson. "He came back today and I think it is very evident what he does for them offensively. We had to go to two-deep (zones) more than we wanted to and we got burned a couple of times."
With those three quick receivers on the field, the Bills often found themselves with a free safety isolated in one-on-one coverage.
"You feel naked out there when you are a free safety trying to cover one of those wide receivers one on one," said Rod Kush. "We had to run a lot of one-on-ones, and there is always that deep threat, although they did not beat us deep very many times today."
Monk's 11-yard touchdown reception came on Washington's fifth offensive play and gave the Redskins a 7-0 lead. It was a rude welcome home for Brian Carpenter, who was cut by Washington earlier in the season and has started the last six games for Buffalo.
"I figured they would try to come after me because I'm the new guy back there," Carpenter said. "On that touchdown, we were double-covering him, but the safety (Donald Wilson) never came over."
Right cornerback Charles Romes appeared to intercept a long pass down the left sideline on the last play of the first quarter. Muhammad, however, stripped the ball from him for a 52-yard gain that gave Washington a first down on the Buffalo 29. Three plays later, Brown beat Romes for an 18-yard touchdown and a 24-0 lead with 14:03 left in the first half.
Romes said Buffalo's secondary, which often played Washington's receivers nine yards off the line of scrimmage, intentionally gave up the extra room.
Romes said the Bills wanted to avoid "fade" passes that set a wide receiver one on one with a defensive back on a quickly thrown timed pattern.
"Joe Theismann is one of the best at throwing the fade pass, and we didn't want to get in a fade contest," said Romes. "But playing back that far hurt us a couple of times."
Wilson, a rookie from North Carolina State and Cardozo High School in the District, said the Bills continually tried to adjust to the three-wide receiver threat and the quick outs Theismann was throwing to Monk and Brown.
"We worked on it all week," said Wilson. "But it was like a chess game out there. Every time we made a move to adjust, they made a move. Today, I just don't think we had the intensity we had last week in beating Dallas (Buffalo's only victory this season)."
"It was fun to be back," Carpenter said, "but I just hate the way things turned out."