We set the tempo. WE SET THE TEMPO! That is what every defensive coach yells at his team before a game, but somewhere along the line it must have fallen upon deaf ears. Setting the tempo means you dictate how the game is going to be played and at what speed. In other words, you control the other team and they are forced to adjust to you, not you to them.
Before the game, it was wide open as to who would win. The Lions’ Reggie Bush was out because of an injury, and all the prognosticators were giving the Redskins the win. At the start there was hope as the Redskins got a sack on the first play by defensive leader London Fletcher. The Lions had problems moving the ball, and it seemed the words of the coach were coming true. On the next defensive series DeAngelo Hall got an interception and ran it in for a touchdown. We set the tempo. But that was the beginning of the game—and from there it all went downhill. The Redskins are only as strong as their leaders, and when their leader is not 100 percent, the team is not 100 percent.
The Lions’ game plan was simple: Send their biggest, baddest receiver, Calvin Johnson—a.k.a. Megatron—against Hall and let him make big plays (he caught seven passes for 115 yards). Put pressure on RG3, forcing him into uncomfortable positions, and let the Redskins destroy themselves by creating penalties.
Here’s what coaches normally tell the players after a loss:
• You can’t turn over the ball.
• You have to set the tempo of the game.
• You have to hold the opposing team to under 14 points.
• Your big players have to make big plays.
• We will review film and get better.
My wife sometimes accuses me of pointing out only the doom and gloom, so let me point out some good stuff. Robert Griffin III did look better running—not in terms of speed but in terms of the ability to run. Several months ago, I tried to race a man half my age. As we took off, my mind had won the race, but I realized my competitor had already made it 15 yards by the time I left the starting point. It was frustrating, as I knew what my body used to do compared with how it reacted now. RG3 may have felt similar as defense linemen almost chased him down. Another good thing: Alfred Morris ran for 73 yards and a touchdown.
The Redskins were still in the game close to the end, which is better than they were in previous weeks. They are not last in the NFC East; that honor goes to the NY Giants. It’s still early in the season, so I am not panicking yet, but the Redskins clearly have some holes to fix.
Ken Harvey is the former president of the Washington Redskins Alumni Association. He played as an outside linebacker for the Phoenix Cardinals and the Washington Redskins from 1988 to 1999. During his career he appeared in 164 games and recorded 89 sacks.