Washington's Defense Given The Boot
The Tampa Tribune, published 13 October 2003

The fans at FedEx Field were booing at the wrong times Sunday during the Washington Redskins' 35-13 loss to Tampa Bay. Instead of the crowd voicing its displeasure after Tampa Bay touchdowns, the Skins might have preferred the fans' noise when the Bucs approached the goal line, tipping off the Washington defense that a ``booootleg'' might be on the way.

Tip-offs, actually, shouldn't have been necessary. Tampa Bay scored three touchdowns running bootlegs, which involve an elaborate fake of a running play to one side of the field. With the defense drawn to the fake, the quarterback reverses direction and looks for a receiver. The Bucs exploited the play for three scores, all thrown by Brad Johnson to tight ends. Todd Yoder caught the first two, from 1 and 11 yards, and rookie Will Heller grabbed the last from 4 yards. ``That's how it works in a lot of games,'' Washington linebacker Jesse Armstead said. ``You've got something ... you keep going to it until the defense stops it. We never stopped the bootleg.''

On all three touchdowns, Johnson's receivers were wide open. ``We sure haven't figured out that little naked pass where they fake one way and throw it the other way,'' Washington coach Steve Spurrier said. "That play is a basic part of their offense, so we have no excuses for missing it,'' said Jeremiah Trotter, Washington's middle linebacker. ``Still, it's one of the great, basic plays. As old as it is, if a team runs it well, that one receiver's going to come open lots of times.''

Redskins cornerback Fred Smoot credited Johnson and running backs Michael Pittman and Thomas Jones with ``selling'' the play by making the running fakes convincing. ``That's typical of Brad Johnson and one of the reasons I respect him,'' Smoot said. ``He doesn't care about being on the highlights completing 40-yard passes. He just wants the next yard and the next first down. He does the little things.''

The bootleg is a traditional call against an overzealous defense, designed to make the defenders' desire to make a big play work against them. ``A sucker play,'' said linebacker LaVar Arrington, who then asked, ``Did they hit a few boots on us? I can remember, like, one or maybe two. They worked one on me [in the first first quarter] for a first down. I'm really so disappointed with how we played, that I just can't remember.''

If the teams should happen to play again, that's probably good news for Tampa Bay.