The lack of a pass rush has hurt a pass defense that was first before the Philadelphia game on Nov. 6 but has fallen to ninth entering Sunday's contest against Oakland. That was the third time in nine games that Washington failed to get to the opposing quarterback. The Redskins have an NFC-low 14 sacks, putting them on pace for just 25.
The Redskins have surrendered nine of their 17 passes of at least 24 yards the last two weeks. Simms threw for three touchdowns and 279 yards against a Redskins secondary that was minus free safety Sean Taylor, out with a sprained ankle.
Instead of blitzing Simms like crazy, assistant head coach/defense Gregg Williams sent five or more rushers only 11 times in Simms' 30 pass plays.
And when Williams did send extra bodies, the gambles didn't pay off. Against a five-man rush, Simms was 4-for-9 for 78 yards, including the 30-yard touchdown to Edell Shepherd with 58 seconds left that set up Mike Alstott's game-winning two-point run.
Simms completed both of his throws against six-man and eight-man rushes, the latter for 46 yards to Shepherd, who beat rookie corner Carlos Rogers. Strong safety Ryan Clark just missed getting to Simms, and two plays later, the Bucs tied the game 28-28.
"We have to get to (Simms)," Williams said. "When we commit to the rush and commit to the blitz the way we did, we have to win the one-on-one battle. We didn't win those that would have helped the coverage and possibly made a difference in the ballgame. Coverage works hand in hand with the pass rush. You have to do things in rushing the quarterback to not allow the route to get down the field as deep as they were."
Taylor is still gimpy this week, as is top inside pass rusher Cornelius Griffin, who hasn't been on the field since the second play of the loss at Giants Stadium on Oct. 30. That doesn't bode well for Sunday's matchup against the Raiders, who are a solid 13th in sacks allowed per pass.
Right end Phillip Daniels said that if Williams didn't have a reputation for being so aggressive, offenses might send out more receivers, which could loosen things up for the pass rush.
"If we weren't a pressure team, I feel like teams would play a little more honest," he said. "The way we play, if you don't get there, you're in trouble. They know you're coming with a blitz, and they go with a three-step drop and throw it. Either way, it's stacked against you as far as the sack numbers because they have max-protect or three steps and the ball is gone."SERIES HISTORY: 10th meeting. The Raiders lead the series 6-3, but the Redskins won the team's last meeting 29-19 in Oakland in 1998. The Raiders also beat the Redskins 38-9 in Super Bowl XVIII.
Quotes and Notes
--Seven current Redskins - offensive linemen Ray Brown, Jon Jansen, Cory Raymer and Chris Samuels, H-back Mike Sellers, receiver James Thrash and linebacker LaVar Arrington - played for Raiders coach Norv Turner in Washington. Most spoke fondly of their former coach.
"Norv's a great play-caller, plain and simple," Sellers said. "The man's an offensive genius. (But) he didn't have the right players. We had a lot of individuals. Now we have a lot of team players. But it just happened that some of the guys who weren't the best team players were making plays for us. They had no choice but to keep them."
Raymer agreed with Sellers about Turner's offensive mind and his ability to teach schemes and said that the coach's apparent failure to motivate his players was overrated.
"With Marty (Schottenheimer), when you were leaving the locker room, if you missed the door, you would just run right through the wall," Raymer said. "But that lasts for just the first five minutes and then you're back on what you've been taught and what you've gone over that week. There's a time when you need encouragement and there's a time when you need a foot in the backside. Norv was good at both of those."
Brown, the only active Redskin who preceded Turner's 1994 arrival in Washington, never completely got over the new coach having been the offensive coordinator of archrival Dallas or importing eight former Cowboys.
"Norv was a Dallas guy," Brown said. "That bugged me a little bit. When you sign on here, you're supposed to hate the Cowboys. I don't think that group understood who we were. They came in with somewhat of an arrogance: 'We beat you guys. We'll show you guys how we do it down in Dallas.' That didn't go over well. If you're a new guy, you have to take inventory of what's in the locker room because there's always going to be a pecking order. You have to respect those guys who have been here. As a group, that didn't happen with those guys."
--On the same day that he returned a kickoff for a touchdown for the first time since high school and caught a touchdown pass for the first time in his four NFL seasons, running back Ladell Betts sprained the medial collateral ligament in his left knee. Betts didn't practice on Wednesday and is questionable for Sunday's game with Oakland.
"It happened when I took a hit on a kickoff return in the third quarter," said Betts, who had never before injured a knee. "It felt kind of funny at the time, but I wasn't quite sure what I did. I played the rest of the game on adrenaline. After the game, I said something to the trainers and the doctors. Of course, after you sleep on it, you wake up the next morning and you feel all the pain. It's a little sore, but it's not like an ACL where you need surgery. MCLs heal themselves. It's a little, minor setback. I'm not ruling myself out."
BY THE NUMBERS: 4 - Winning records posted by Norv Turner during his seven seasons in Washington (1994-2000).
0 - Winning seasons recorded by the Redskins since Turner's firing.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We had a lot to gain by winning that game, and I wished we hadn't even saw that (Giants') score. Guys might have gotten complacent and started to think about the situation instead of playing the game right in front of you. You're looking up to see how much time is left and the score was right there." - Defensive end Phillip Daniels on the Redskins losing focus last Sunday at Tampa Bay knowing that the first-place Giants had been upset by Minnesota.
Player Personnel Notes
--WR David Patten didn't practice because of what coach Joe Gibbs called "irritation" in his knee. The "irritation" is bad enough that Patten, who has started every game and caught three passes for 24 yards last Sunday at Tampa, is listed as doubtful.
--FS Sean Taylor missed a fourth straight practice with the sprained right ankle that kept him out of a game for the first time last Sunday. Taylor is questionable for the Raiders. Pierson Prioleau didn't play well in Taylor's place against the Bucs. Matt Bowen could start against the Raiders.
--LDT Cornelius Griffin hasn't been on the field since aggravating a hip flexor on the first series of the 36-0 loss to the Giants on Oct. 30. Griffin is questionable for Sunday but likely will miss a third straight game. Demetric Evans likely would continue to start in his place.
--RDT Joe Salave'a didn't practice again because of the plantar fascitis in his right foot that he first hurt on Oct. 16 at Kansas City. Salave'a has missed most practices since but hasn't missed a game. This week should be no different. He's probable for Sunday.
--RDE Phillip Daniels didn't practice on Wednesday because of the sprained ankle he suffered against the Giants. Daniels has missed the last three Wednesdays but hasn't missed a game. He's probable for Sunday.
GAME PLAN: The Redskins are coming off a surprisingly strong running game against a stout Tampa Bay defense, so look for coach Joe Gibbs to keep feeding the ball to RB Clinton Portis. QB Mark Brunell and WR Santana Moss have cooled in recent games, but they could find success against a fairly inexperienced Raiders secondary.
Since the Redskins defensive line probably won't get the better of the Raiders offensive line, assistant head coach/defense Gregg Williams will probably try to win his matchup in the secondary. However, that unit had the worst game of his two-year tenure last week. CBs Shawn Springs and Walt Harris need to come up big against Raiders WR Randy Moss and Jerry Porter, especially if FS Sean Taylor is absent again.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
--Redskins LG Derrick Dockery and RG Randy Thomas vs. Raiders RDT Warren Sapp and LDT Ted Washington. The focus up front is usually on the pass-protecting tackles against the pass-rushing DEs, but these interior matchups are more intriguing. It's Sapp's quickness against Dockery's power and Thomas' nastiness vs. Washington's bulk. C Casey Rabach will also be in the mix.
--Redskins CB Shawn Springs vs. Raiders WR Randy Moss. Moss hasn't been 100 percent lately and hasn't been the force he was with Minnesota. Still, he has five TDs among his 32 catches and is averaging 19.7 yards a grab. Veteran Springs is having another fine year. He helped hold Moss to 66 yards on five catches in the 2004 finale.
--Redskins H-back Chris Cooley vs. Raiders SS Jarrod Cooper. If the Raiders focus on controlling WR Santana Moss, as the Redskins' last three foes have, it will be up to Cooley to find holes in coverage underneath. With 41 catches and 469 yards, Cooley has already topped the totals of his 2004 rookie season. Fifth-year man Cooper became a starter three weeks ago when Derrick Gibson was hurt.
INJURY IMPACT: If, as expected, WR David Patten can't play, special teams regular James Thrash will start and little-used Taylor Jacobs will be the third receiver. Either Rich Parson or Steven Harris likely would be promoted from the practice squad.