Week 2: Fluttering Falcons
By: Eric Johnson 
Posted: 2003-09-16
Category: Washington Redskins News
FLUTTERING FALCONS

Good day, Shaolin Redskins fans! It is a glorious day indeed--our troops return victorious from the field after a close-fought battle. The sun has been shining in these cooling days, as it has shone on our army.

The Ol' Ball Coach continues to show that he has taken to heart a number of Master Sun Tzu's lessons. Let us see how he has done so this week:

MAKING ADJUSTMENTS

Sun Tzu said:

"Now an army may be likened to water, for
just as flowing water avoids the heights
and hastens to the lowlands, so an army
avoids strength and strikes weakness."

Against Atlanta, we saw the team get knocked back on its heels in the first quarter, falling to a 17-0 deficit. But they were unwilling to give up, fighting and clawing their way to a 33-31 victory. Yet it is *how* they went about that fighting and clawing that is so instructive.

Early in the game, the Falcons were using their 3-4 defense (and the crowd noise) to great effect, overwhelming the offensive line and running backs with blitzes and sacking Ramsey four times in the first half alone. But adjustments were made--seemingly an art lost with Joe Gibbs--and that bought the Redskins the time and means to mount their comeback. Spurrier started calling for short slants and three-step drops to keep the Falcons' defense at home. And it worked, so that the Redskins could mix those short throws with runs and the occasional bomb, seizing the momentum again, knocking the crowd out of the equation, and generating scoring drives that eventually put the Falcons down and out for the count.

The Redskins avoided the strengths of the Falcons' defense--their successful blitz packages, for example--and attacked its weaknesses, such as the exposed secondary. The result was, as Master Sun Tzu predicted, victory.

QUICK STRIKE

Sun Tzu said:

"When the strike of a hawk breaks the body
of its prey, it is because of timing."

With 0:19 left in the third quarter and the Falcons pinned back against their endzone by a fine Redskins special teams play, Atlanta QB Doug Johnson took the snap and dropped back into the end zone, beginning a play-action fake to dump the ball off to tailback Warrick Dunn. Redskins linebacker Jessie Armstead had seen that play in the first half and had covered Dunn, knocking down the pass. But he made a mental note to himself to keep an eye out for the same play--because it had presented an opportunity.

This time, with less than a minute left in the third quarter and a 24-24 tie on the scoreboard, Armstead watched the play unfold and instead of covering Dunn again, he knifed through a gap in the line and crushed the unprotected Falcons quarterback for a safety. And those two points were critical as they provided the margin of victory for the game.

This is the second week in which the Redskins linebacking corps has shown the instinctive play that has set this season apart already for them. Last week it was Jeremiah Trotter bursting through the line to drop LaMont Jordan for a critical 4-yard loss. Instead of adhering to Marvin Lewis' rigid defensive scheme, the linebackers are permitted by new DC George Edwards to play with more freedom. And with that freedom comes more opportunity for all three linebackers to wreak havoc as the center of the defense. Timing, instinct--and the breaking of the body of their prey.

LAVAR-SAN

Speaking of instinctive linebacking, our cousin across the sea in Japan, Miyamoto Musashi, has these words of instruction for our samurai linebacker, LaVar Arrington. From the Book of Five Rings:

"Or, if the enemy attacks calmly, you must
observe his movement and, with your body
rather floating, join in with his movements
as he draws near. Move quickly and cut him
strongly."

Twice within three minutes of each other in the fourth quarter, LaVar managed to bat down passes near the line of scrimmage, showing how he watches the play develop and--with his body rather floating--spikes the play in question. The same thing happened last week against the Jets--LaVar making a play on the ball like a cornerback. There is simply no question that LaVar-san moves quickly and cuts his enemy strongly.
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