The Inside Slant

Redskins defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis drew the tough assignment this week. He must devise a way to slow down a hot offense, mindful that his own offense is struggling. The Redskins can't afford to get into a shootout and Lewis knows that.

Thing is, he knows exactly what he's up against. Sort of.

''After watching 12 games Monday and watching us play against them two years ago and watching the last two Super Bowls and watching Tampa Bay against them the last three years, you sit and think, 'What the hell did I just look at?' Most of the times you have a sense. But it's a forest and trees concept. If you can't see the forest for the trees, you get too caught up in everything.

''That's the impression. With all the motion and movement, it's an impressive thing to watch. One time Marshall is in the backfield and the next time he's in the trips bunch and they have a receiver in the backfield. The next time the tight end is in the backfield and Marshall's out there and they have two receivers in the trips package. You have to be aware of what they're doing and locate your guy and know that those plays we've been featuring, we'll see those plays but they may come from a different alignment.

''Every play they run complements a play coming off it. What they ran last week against Chicago, we'll see a complementary play off it. You see what they did four weeks ago and those are the plays we'll see. It's the cyclical way they run their offense and it's a neat progression to go back and watch it.

''They're going to run the same 15-20 plays they designed for that Sunday and they've been very explosive in the first quarter of the last four or five games, going right down the field. After that everyone settles down and you quit flinching and adjust to what they're doing. You can't panic, you have to make adjustments.

''You've got to mix things up against them. I wish I could say you load up and come get Kurt. But this offense has a lot of weapons and you get Marshall isolated out there and then you get [in trouble]. I'd much rather go in giving up a field goal than a touchdown. But you've gotta live and die sometimes. Chicago went after Bulger when they got behind and tried to make something happen. They made a couple plays, but St. Louis also threw it over their heads. It always looks good when you get the sack for John Madden and all his expert commentary. But in the end St. Louis won by how many?

''They have the ability to make plays in the running game, too. Marshall has the ability to, even if you play it well, make you miss. In the passing game it's the preciseness of their routes, the cutting in and out of breaks. That's what makes them such an explosive offense. We have to do the best job we can to get them off rhythm.

''This is a big challenge for us and it's going to be fun. They're explosive, but this is what you're here for. You can't put your tail between your legs and go hide. ''


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