MINNEAPOLIS -- Richie Petitbon said he thought his defense was special, but kept it to himself until their mission was completed last night.
"I thought we had a very good defense, but I didn't want to say much about it until this thing [season] was finished. When we shut out Buffalo in the first half, under some difficult circumstances, that was great defense. Buffalo was the best offensive team we had played against this year, and not letting them score in the first half is something."
Petitbon is Washington's defensive coordinator and generally regarded as one of the best in the game. His game plan, his approach, enabled Washington to build a 24-0 lead.
"Richie Petitbon gave us a plan today that gave the Bills all kinds of problems," said one of the men who carried out the plan, linebacker Andre Collins. "We blitzed more than we had done in any other game this year. Normally we are more conservative. At the beginning of the game we wanted to attack to stop their running game. But as it went along, we were also successful against the pass."
There were two plays that perhaps turned the game, made by design and luck.
"At the half I told Richie that I thought I could get a blitz on [Buffalo quarterback Jim] Kelly and come clean if we made an adjustment," Collins said. "During the first half, I covered Thurman Thomas when he came out of the backfield in the flat to catch passes. I told Richie if I blitzed when he did that, and we let one of our defensive ends go with Thomas, I could get to Kelly. We decided that no matter what formation Buffalo was in, we were going to blitz the first play of the second half."
Buffalo, down 17-0, had control first in the second half. On first down, Kelly faded back and Collins came clean, forcing the Buffalo quarterback to rush his pass. The pass over the middle to tight end Keith McKeller was intercepted by linebacker Kurt Gouveia, who returned it to the Buffalo 2.
"I thought that was the biggest play," Petitbon said. "It gave us the big lead [Gerald Riggs scored]. Our defense had some people hurting at the time, and we had to make adjustments."
Near the end of the third period, Washington scored to go ahead, 31-10. By that time Petitbon was using his substitutes to make up for the injuries. One sub was little-used Alvoid Mays, who blitzed, forcing Kelly to fumble. Washington recovered, and a field goal by Chip Lohmiller made it 34-10.
"Alvoid made the play on a mistake," Petitbon said. "He was playing a position he was not used to, and he blitzed when he shouldn't have. We just got lucky."
But on the whole, Washington's defense played on more than luck.
"Our blitzing at the beginning took away their running game," said veteran linebacker Monte Coleman. "And when we got the big lead, we know they had to pass. The no-huddle is supposed to keep a team from substituting, but we didn't have any #F problems."
"We substituted every time we wanted to," Petitbon said, "and the reason we did is we limited the number of substitutions that we normally do."
Kelly and the Bills put some points on the board in the fourth period, but the Redskins were basically trying to protect the lead at the time. The job had been done.