There's nothing fancy about the Washington Redskins. They're a sound team that's been doing the same thing very well under head coach Joe Gibbs for seven years. In fact, their defensive scheme under Richie Petitbon goes back to the '70s and George Allen's days as head coach.
I've been doing game plans against the Redskins since 1960, so I think I know them pretty well. To beat them, you must do two things: slow their running game and their defensive front four.
The Redskins' strengths match up well against Denver's weaknesses. As Cleveland showed in the AFC championship game, the Broncos are vulnerable to a power running attack. And if you're going to find a way to contain John Elway, a strong pass rush is a good place to start.
The Redskins' quarterbacks are not operating at a level that can carry the team without a running attack, like Elway can carry Denver without much running. Doug Williams and Jay Schroeder have great arms and they go deep to receivers with speed like Gary Clark, Ricky Sanders and Art Monk. If they're hitting those passes, Denver's in trouble.
I don't see Washington scoring much unless they can run some, which I think they can do against the Broncos. The Redskins' running game is simple, based strictly on power and execution. They use straight-ahead zone blocking with their big backs either running with the flow of the play or countering against it. That's all they do.
If you want to stop that kind of attack, you must control the gaps along the line of scrimmage. Stunting, three-man front teams like Denver don't always do that very well. The Broncos will have a hard time unless they get hot and guess right with their stunts.
Denver likes to penetrate the backfield by stunting and shooting its linebackers through the line. It's similar to what the Vikings did last week with their line, and they got burned by Washington's counterplays.
Against the Redskins' defense, you must be concerned first with their pass rush. If you slow it down and give your quarterback time, you'll be able to hit passes.
They alternate their pass coverages between man-to-man and zone, but they can be beat on countermoves because they're relying so much on the pass rush.
We say the Redskins' defensive backs have a three-second clock in their heads. They play their defense for three seconds, then they look at the quarterback and go for the ball because they figure the front four has gotten to the quarterback. They're so conscious of the pass rush that if they don't get it, they'll break down in the secondary. If Elway gets out of the pocket, he'll find his Amigos popping open downfield. That could be a key factor.
Washington plays what we call a pressure 4-3 defense. They're not sitting back, reading and containing the offense. They come after you. But they won't stay in the same defense if you're hurting them. They have the flexibility to adjust.
Darrell Green, their fastest player, will be assigned to the Broncos' best receiver. He's an excellent cornerback who must have a big game for the Redskins to stop Elway.
Tom Landry has coached the Dallas Cowboys since their entry into the NFL in 1960. Denver Coach Dan Reeves played and coached for Landry. And of course, Landry has been preparing game plans to play against Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs for seven seasons. .