Redskins brace for blitz of hungry Falcons Dallas loss exposed weaknesses in line

September 13, 1992|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- For the beleaguered Washington Redskin offensive line, the timing couldn't be worse.

Still somewhat shellshocked after the 23-10 licking in Dallas Monday night when they lost the battle at the line of scrimmage, the linemen have to regroup in time for another tough challenge today against the Atlanta Falcons at RFK Stadium.

There's no secret about what the Falcons' strategy is. They're going to come after the Redskins with the blitz. That's the style Atlanta coach Jerry Glanville usually plays.

"It wouldn't matter who we were playing. We like to come after you," Glanville said yesterday.

It's a style that can backfire on the Falcons. When the linemen pick up the blitz, the secondary is vulnerable.

In the regular-season meeting between the teams last November, the Redskins' linemen picked up the blitz and gave Mark Rypien time to throw for 442 yards and six touchdowns in a 56-17 victory over the Falcons.

It was a different story when the teams met in the playoffs. The Falcons retreated to a zone defense, held Rypien to 170 yards passing and lost 24-7.

Glanville, though, said it wasn't the November rout that caused him to become conservative in the playoffs. He said he couldn't play man-to-man defense on the muddy field in RFK Stadium because it was too easy to slip.

After watching the way Dallas gave the Redskins problems Monday night, there's no doubt Glanville will go back to his attack defense.

Rypien is expecting it.

"I think in a way, [Glanville] will see some things on film that he'll get excited about and his football team will be excited about. They know that we're not playing at our best and maybe a way to disrupt things is to come after us," Rypien said.

All this puts the focus on the offensive line. It knows how dangerous a Glanville team can be.

Left tackle Jim Lachey said it was the worst showing by the Redskins' offensive line since 1988 -- the last time the Redskins were the defending champions -- when the Houston Oilers, then coached by Glanville, routed the Redskins, 41-17.

Lachey said, "We definitely have to find a way to protect the quarterback better than we did [against Dallas]. We never find a way to do anything easy around here. It's always been through a lot of hard work and a lot of hard practices."

Lachey is getting sensitive about all the questions of the effects of his holdout after he was beaten by Charles Haley Monday night.

"I think I've just got some work to do to redefine my techniques. I'm not worried about things that are already in the history books," he said.

One thing that will be different today is that the Redskins will be playing at home so they won't have trouble hearing the signals.

The Redskins' problem with the Dallas crowd started on the first play when guard Raleigh McKenzie, with help from Earnest Byner, was supposed to pick up linebacker Vinson Smith, who was blitzing from the left side.

"I didn't get off as quick on the ball and the penetrating guy [Jeff] Bostic had kind of knocked me off a little bit and Earnest didn't go that way, either," McKenzie said. "He went the wrong way and that really gave [Smith] the corner."

Smith threw Rypien for an 11-yard loss and three plays later Issiac Holt blocked a punt for a safety.

If Smith had been blocked, the Redskins think they would have had a long completion on the first play, possibly changing the tempo of the game.

"There's a bitter taste in your mouth," said McKenzie, "but we're certainly not going to push the panic button. We've been through the ups and downs. This is one of the down moments. You have to pull together."

The Redskins should find out today if they've got it back together.

Falcons-Redskins today

Site: RFK Stadium, Washington. Time: 1 p.m.

TV: Channels 11, 9.

Radio: WTEM (570 AM).

Line: Redskins by 10.

Last week: The Redskins were defeated by the Dallas Cowboys, and the Falcons beat the New York Jets, 20-17.

The series: The Redskins have a 12-3-1 edge and an 8-0 mark against the Falcons in Washington. This is the third time the teams have met at RFK Stadium since last Nov. 10.

On the sidelines: Joe Gibbs, in his 12th season as Redskins coach, has a 130-58-0 record, but he's only 11-12 in the first two weeks of the season. Jerry Glanville, in his third season as Falcons coach, is 16-17. He was 33-32 in four years with the Oilers.

What the Redskins have to do to win: If the offensive line can

contain the Falcons' blitz, this game is likely to come down to Mark Rypien's right arm. The Posse figures to get loose in the Falcons' secondary. If Rypien can hit them with a few bombs, the Redskins should win big. If Rypien's timing is still off, the Redskins could sputter and be upset. They may again have to worry about crowd noise -- boos -- if Rypien is off.

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