In what has so far been a season of turmoil, the Redskins face their biggest challenge to date when the 11-0 New Orleans Saints come marching into FedEx Field this Sunday.
The Saints head into this week looking like one of the most dominant teams in recent memory after their shellacking of the New England Patriots on Monday Night Football. Their offense is tops in the league in total yards per game and is very balanced, with their pass offense ranked fourth in the NFL in yards per game and their rushing attack ranking fifth in yards per game.
“Most offenses are good at running the ball and ineffective at passing the ball and vice versa. The Saints are good at all of the above. They are fortunate to have everyone healthy and they are winning. The most important thing is they are a cohesive group and play well together,” Redskins defensive end Andre Carter said.
The Saints offense appears comparable to “The Greatest Show On Turf” of the St. Louis Rams from the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. Some may argue that they’re even better. Are they?
“It seems that way,” said Carter, who faced “The Greatest Show on Turf” twice a year during the beginning of his NFL career.
“They are a great team and Drew Brees is playing on fire. He is very effective in the pocket and uses all of his offensive weapons. On Monday night’s game. he threw the ball [to] five wide receivers (for touchdowns). His vision is amazing and he can make people miss in the pocket.”
The Redskins are coming off of their second consecutive heartbreaking divisional loss, this time to the Philadelphia Eagles, who possess an offensive makeup similar to New Orleans. The difference between the two is that the Saints are performing above and beyond their capabilities while the Eagles, who have firepower and playmakers sprinkled throughout their offensive lineup, have not met their full potential just yet.
Carter knows that giving a team like New Orleans the opportunities that Philadelphia took advantage of this past Sunday, will not result in a win.
“(We have to) play harder and minimize the mental errors because a team like New Orleans will take advantage of that.”
One mistake that has been recurring over the past three weeks has been the secondary’s penchant for allowing star receivers to get wide-open for long touchdown passes. DeSean Jackson’s 35-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter marked his third, and shortest, score against the Redskins defense this season. In Week 10, Brandon Marshall of the Denver Broncos was able to create space and score two touchdowns that totaled 115 yards.
Unfortunately for the Redskins defense, who still rank No. 1 in the league in passing yards allowed per game, it won’t get any easier this coming Sunday. The problem facing Washington’s secondary is that the Saints don’t have just one star receiver that is targeted more often than the others. They have several talented and speedy options that can get open at a moments notice. Carter says the secondary’s performance will be based off of the defensive line’s ability to pressure Brees.
“It starts with a four-man rush and everyone communicating. We have done it before. It’s a matter of consistency.”
Along with a potent offense, the Saints have an aggressive defense led by former Redskins defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who many believed should have succeeded Joe Gibbs as head coach in 2008. Carter played under Williams during his last two seasons in Washington so he has a good sense of how he will use his personnel against an offense that has been riddled with injuries to key players all season long.
“Oh, Gregg Williams is like the master from the movie ‘Karate Kid.’ ‘Show no Mercy.’ His style is aggressive and [he] believes in one-on-one matchups. He will blitz four, five, six guys at a time and expects someone to be free in making a big play. He has an unconditional love for the game and treats everyone as equals,” Carter said.
Williams, who is known for his hard-nosed style of coaching and teaching, formed many bonds along the way. Many Redskins defenders will greet Williams prior to game-time and chat about old memories they may have. So what does Carter plan to say to Williams?
“The casual talk. ‘Hey Gregg, I think you are as ugly as ever.’ Just kidding. We will shoot the breeze and talk about family but in the end it’s showtime.”
When showtime finally comes, it will be very interesting to see how the Redskins react to a challenging opponent like the Saints. The Redskins have a tendency to either play up to better competition or play down to lesser opponents.
In order for Washington to turn their reputation around like New Orleans has, there will need to be more consistency and dominance on both sides of the ball. For young Redskins fans, the inability to hold onto a late lead in a game is a trend that has been seen far too often and was most recently put on display this past Sunday against Philadelphia.
In order for the Redskins to have the mentality of a winning franchise that closes out games when there’s a late lead as opposed to giving up the lead, what needs to be done?
“The pieces of the puzzle are there. We need just more fight. Just a little extra inch to get us over the hump,” Carter said.
Under the Helmet:
THN: How did you spend your Thanksgiving? What did you do and what was the most enjoyable moment from your holiday?
AC: I was home for Thanksgiving. My wife cooked the meal and I ate every single morsel on my plate. My enjoyable moment was seeing my grandma visit me from Florida. A sweet woman who loved life and a bottle of beer from time-to-time. God bless her.
Edit: This blog was archived in May of 2016 from our original articles database.It was originally posted by Jake Russell