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Haslett Discusses 3rd-and-21, Looks Ahead

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Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett met with reporters on Thursday and discussed the controversial 3rd-and-21 blitz call from last Monday night's 18-16 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.

On the play, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo eluded the blitz and lofted a 30-yard pass to wide receiver Dez Bryant, who was in single coverage with cornerback DeAngelo Hall.

Hall was flagged with a face mask penalty on the play, adding 15 yards and putting the Cowboys in position for a game-winning field goal.

In dissecting what went wrong on the play, Haslett said he chatted with some Cowboys offensive coaches this week.

Explained Haslett: "There are a lot of things that go into that [call]. First of all, we have run [that defensive package] 10 times this year so far and we've had one touchdown, two interceptions, a fumble, and we've won nine of them and we lost one. So it's a great defense, it really is. We ran it on 3rd-and-18 [in the third quarter of the game] and we had the interception.

"Talking to a couple coaches on Dallas, they had a comeback on. They avoided the comeback because they saw the blitz. [Romo] started running for his life and just kind of threw it up in the air. So they made a play and we didn't. It's one of those deals.

"Would you take it back? Of course, coaches always second-guess themselves. It's still a great defense."

Asked about the post-game comments from Hall, in which the veteran cornerback seemed to question the call, Haslett replied: "You know what, he's an emotional guy and he is high-strung. He felt bad about the play and I understand. Stuff like that doesn't bother me, I played the game and I probably said some things worse than that."

Haslett said he agreed with Hall that the face mask penalty was questionable.

"He hit the face mask but he never grabbed it," Haslett said.

When it comes to his blitz packages, Haslett said he mixes up his calls a lot, especially on third downs.

"We don't blitz all the time," he said. "We play coverage, we play blitz, depending on what the offense is doing and their protection. Can we get there? Can we four-man rush, can we five-man rush? It's not like blitz-fest. There's a good mixture of what we do in those situations."

For all the hand-wringing about 3rd-and-21, the Redskins' defense is first in the NFL in third down percentage. The unit has yielded just 7 of 32 third-down conversions so far this season, a 21.8 percent clip.

Haslett said he was proud of how the defense played vs. Dallas.

He made a point to praise cornerback Josh Wilson and nose tackle Chris Neild for their performances on Monday night.

"We played great, we held a team to six field goals," he said. "I don't think I've ever lost a game by six field goals. Those guys gave everything they had...We did everything we could do to win the game and it came down to, they made a play and we didn't."

Moving on to this Sunday's game in St. Louis, Haslett believes the Redskins have something to prove against the Rams. Last year, in a 30-16 loss to the Rams at the Edward Jones Dome, the Redskins struggled on defense.

"We didn't play well up there, we didn't play well in any facet," Haslett said. "We had missed assignments, missed tackles. It was the whole gamut. Guys are pretty focused this week.

Haslett has familiarity with St. Louis, of course. He was the interim head coach of the Rams in 2008. He replaced Scott Linehan, who was fired after five games, and coached the Rams the final 11 weeks.

Haslett was initially hired as Rams defensive coordinator. He served in that role in 2006-07 and the first five games of 2008.

He knows the Rams will be a challenge on Sunday. He sees a team that is perhaps better than its 0-3 record. He believes the Rams may have been hindered by the lockout and the team's inability to work with players on the new offense during the offseason.

"The quarterback Sam Bradford is excellent," Haslett said. "I know [running back] Steven Jackson and they upgraded with Cadillac Williams and Jerious Norwood, they're as good as any three in the league. They have solid receivers, athletic tight ends."

Under new offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, the former Denver Broncos head coach, the Rams appear to change their offensive scheme from week to week, Haslett said.

"You have to be able to adjust to whatever they're going to give you," Haslett said.

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