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Defensive Focus: Pressuring QB Simms

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You can forget about Mike Alstott's elbow and whether or not he crossed the goal line for a game-winning two-point conversion.

The real reason the Redskins lost at Tampa Bay back on Nov. 13 has more to do with the fact that they did not put enough pressure on young quarterback Chris Simms. In fact, they were sackless in a game Jon Gruden and the Buccaneers rallied to win 36-35.

After the game, in which Simms threw for 279 yards and three TDs, the third-year player out of Texas sounded like quite a comfortable guy.

Simms was quoted as saying: "I thought the pressure was so-so. They came early with a double-corner blitz and another couple of times they came late. But in between, I didn't get much pressure at all."

The atmosphere figures to be quite different on Saturday afternoon at Raymond James Stadium, where the Redskins-Bucs rematch will be staged at 4:30 p.m. ET.

This time, in the Wild Card round of the NFC playoffs, the Redskins will make every effort to make sure Simms feels anything but confident and comfortable.

In their December stretch against NFC East opponents, the Redskins were able to turn up the volume in terms of pressuring quarterbacks. They registered seven sacks versus Dallas and four at Philadelphia.

"I think the thing that has separated us is that we feel like we've been in a playoff game the last five games," defensive end Renaldo Wynn said. "That's been our mentality because it's been do or die. Everyone has had tunnel vision. No blinders, no distractions. It's the same type of situation this week."

Wynn and the defensive line want to make sure that Simms, the son of former New York Giants quarterback Phil Simms, is never comfortable in the pocket.

"He had some pretty good plays against us in the last game," Wynn said. "I know he has definitely improved over the last few weeks--more than a few, actually. He's going to give us his best shot and I know that team is going to rally around him."

Pressuring the quarterback "is a focus" this week, assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams said.

"The quickest way to stop an offense is to get to the quarterback," Williams said. "You can play better in coverage when you can make sure the quarterback is unsettled. We didn't do as good a job in it last time. So that's the task at hand."

In the Week 10 game at Tampa Bay, the Redskins did not have their defensive line leader, Cornelius Griffin, and their knockout punch, Sean Taylor. Griffin was sidelined with a hip injury while Taylor sat out with an ankle injury.

Tampa Bay head coach Jon Gruden knows that the Redskins will try to get more pressure on Simms.

Speaking of the Redskins, Gruden said: "They're a good football team that lost some tight games at mid-season. But they're very talented and they have some outstanding playmakers, players we know all too well.

"Defensively, they never stay the same. They've mastered the perimeter blitz, and they can play maximum zone or maximum blitz within the same sentence."

Bucs defensive end Simeon Rice says the Nov. 13 win against the Redskins gave Tampa Bay's entire organization, and Simms in particular, a real lift.

"That was the game where Chris gained a lot of confidence," said Rice, the 10-year veteran and three-time Pro Bowler. "We needed that game."

Added Rice: "When you get into the playoffs, you understand the ramifications, the position you're in, and that it doesn't come around very often. Every team is optimistic at this point."

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