It was a frustrating Sunday afternoon for Gregg Williams, whose Redskins defense allowed 36 points for the second time in three weeks and yielded 340 total yards of offense to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Redskins lost to Tampa Bay 36-35 at Raymond James Stadiu, dropping their record to 5-4 on the season. The defense could not hold seven point leads at 28-21 and 35-28, and despite a controversial replay call, did not stop fullback Mike Alstott on a game-winning two-point conversion attempt with 58 seconds left in the game.
Early in the game, the defense faltered twice after the offense turned the ball over. After Mark Brunell threw an interception, the Bucs drove 67 yards in six plays for the game's first score in the first quarter. Midway through the second quarter, Brunell was sacked by Simeon Rice and the ball popped out. The Bucs recovered the fumble and took over at the Redskins' 5-yard line.
Said Williams: "Defensively, since we've been here, we've done a good job of coming on the field in adverse situations, no matter if it's after a turnover or if there's a short field. We take a lot of pride in how we play in those areas. We didn't do what we normally have been doing in those situations."
The defense entered the game without two starters in safety Sean Taylor and defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin. Certainly that had an impact on the defense, but Williams refuses to use their absence as an excuse.
In recent weeks, the defense has yielded big plays in the running game. On Sunday against the Buccaneers, the defense yielded big plays in the passing game. Third-year quarterback Chris Simms completed passes of 34, 24, 46 and 30 yards.
The 30-yarder came in the final minute on a touchdown pass from Simms to little-used wide receiver Edell Shepherd. Followed by the successful two-point conversion, it proved to be the game-winning score.
"In pass defense, we didn't handle some of the distractions they gave us, such as shifts or a motions," Williams said after the game. "There's a difference between a move and a route. You ignore moves, but you have to play routes. We bit on some moves."
When that happens, especially in a shootout, it affects a defender's confidence.
"Momentum and distractions are hard to overcome," he added. "Guys give up a play or two and their confidence goes down. It's not a better player that they're playing against or a better team that they're playing against, it's that they have to focus better and block out the distractions."
Up front, the Redskins' defensive line was unable to generate consistent pressure on Simms. Williams employed blitzes at key times, but Simms was able to escape it or throw the ball away.
The Bucs "committed to maximum protection" to give their young quarterback enough time in the pocket, Williams said.
"We didn't get enough pressure, but they committed to maximum pressure," Williams said. "They did a good job at that. So we tried to counter it with good coverage and tried to do something with a four-man rush or a trick rush or two. But we weren't able to get something there, either. We brought more pressure at the end of the game to try to get one-on-ones.
"When you bring pressure the quarterback, that doesn't always guarantee there's going to be a free rusher. A free rusher is usually a mistake that the offense makes. It's not something that's been designed."
Williams pointed toward the Bucs' first big passing play, a 34-yard pass from Simms to wide receiver Joey Galloway. Galloway caught the deep pass along the right sideline and it appeared he only had one foot in bounds, but referees ruled that strong safety Pierson Prioleau's momentum had forced him out of bounds.
"The first big play they had...We had both corners pressuring on that and neither one of them won," Williams said.
Williams said he would take a close look at the defensive breakdowns this week and re-emphasize the basics in practice and film study sessions.
"What we have to do is go back to the drawing board and do a better job of coaching and a better job of playing," he said. "All of us."