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Defense Looks to Disrupt Pass-Happy Lions


Joe Gibbs and Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Mike Martz come from the Don Coryell coaching tree, but you would never know it looking at how they both run their offenses.

Gibbs is fairly conservative, emphasizing the run game. Martz throws caution to the wind, often using four wide receiver sets.

"What was always amazing about Don is he was creative and will try anything--change the snap count and do stuff like that," Gibbs said. "Mike is probably a lot like that. He's not afraid to try something different, do something different.

"Whereas most coaches--we're much more paranoid than that. We're afraid to try something like that. You have to know when you go up against him you're going to be tested because they do a real good job in what they do."

The responsibility for stopping the Lions' high-powered offense rests with assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams.

Williams and Martz have a history together. They faced off against each other Super Bowl XXXIV when Williams was defensive coordinator of the Tennessee Titans and Martz was offensive coordinator of the St. Louis Rams. In one of the most closely contested Super Bowls ever, the Rams defeated the Titans 23-16.

Williams watched the Detroit-Chicago game last Sunday, in which the Lions scored an NFL record 34 points in the fourth quarter to win 37-27.

Although one Lions touchdown came on an interception return and another came on an onsides kick return, Williams joked that the performance "set back defense about 100 years."

Both Williams and Martz made their mark in the NFL by attacking the opposition.

"[Sunday's game] will be a good matchup," Williams said. "They have some very good personnel and Mike has a very good way of getting those guys to play at a very high level. He's a real good teacher of the quarterback and wide receiver position."

Williams now must face a Lions team that is starting to mirror the potent Rams offense once known as "The Greatest Show on Turf."

The Lions enter Sunday's game with the NFL's top-ranked passing offense. They have a veteran quarterback in Jon Kitna and four starting-caliber wide receivers in Mike Furrey, Roy Williams, Shaun McDonald and highly touted rookie Calvin Johnson. Williams, Furrey and McDonald each have 20-plus catches through four games.

Middle linebacker London Fletcher played for Martz when both were in St. Louis from 1998-2001. Martz was the offensive coordinator of the Rams in 1999 when they won Super Bowl XXXIV, then head coach from 2000-03.

"I would anticipate him doing the things he has done since I've known him, since he was the coordinator of the Rams," Fletcher said. "He loves the four-receiver sets and he has four receivers there who are really good."

Fletcher said one of the keys will be to disrupt the timing and rhythm of the Lions' offense.

"You just have to do a bunch of different things," Fletcher said. "You can't just let them get a bead on what you're doing. You have to mix up your looks, your packages and your coverage. Kitna is a veteran quarterback. He has seen a lot. So you just have to be disciplined with your defense, technique and make sure you execute.

"You understand they're going to make some plays on you, but you can't get frustrated by that. You have to understand it's a four-quarter ball game."

By disrupting the timing, the Redskins' front seven could key in on sacks of Kitna.

Kitna has already been sacked 19 times this season, tops in the NFL.

"When you face that style of offense, with four or five receivers going out on routes, that does leave the quarterback open to pressures and sacks if the routes are covered up," Fletcher said. "But that's big emphasis on 'if.'

"It's hard to cover all of those guys through the course of a game. They do expose their quarterback to some hits, but [Kitna] has also done a good job of spreading the ball around and getting the ball out of his hands quickly to take advantage of their playmakers."

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