Redskins quiet about matchup with Patriots

ASHBURN, Va. -- Joe Gibbs acts as if he's scared silly. He's said his Washington Redskins will "probably be the biggest underdog in the history of sports" Sunday against the New England Patriots. He said he'd rather play against teams "who are not very good."

Informed that the Patriots (7-0) haven't beaten the Redskins (4-2) in 35 years, and that Washington is the only team New England quarterback Tom Brady has never defeated, Gibbs replied: "How much money are you going to put on that?"

But what about the coach who runs the defense? How does Gregg Williams view the game against Brady and the great juggernaut?

Proving once again that he is cut from a different cloth than his boss, Williams called it "fun" to play the Patriots.

"No matter what your personnel was, no matter what their personnel was, you were going to have to earn every inch," said Williams, who faced New England regularly during three years as the head coach in Buffalo. "Those games are fun to be in."

The Patriots might be on course to break every offensive record, but they've yet to face a defense as good or as confident as Washington's. The Redskins are ranked fifth in the NFL, allowing 276.8 yards per game, and are first in yards per play (4.3).

Sean Taylor leads the league with five interceptions, and Williams quieted pass-happy quarterbacks Jon Kitna and Brett Favre in recent weeks by abandoning his trademark blitzes and flooding the field with zone coverage to prevent the big play.

Of course, those are modest feats compared to New England's offensive accomplishments: 39.9 points and 432.9 yards per game. The Patriots also put up 48 points against Dallas, the only other game they've played against a defense currently ranked in the top 10.

"It's going to be who executes the best," Williams said. "We're going to know what they do. They're going to know what we do. Can we win some of the matchup battles? We'll see."

Williams' players have been much quieter than usual this week, adopting a communal say-nothing approach that would make New England's media-guarded coach Bill Belichick proud. Even motor-mouth cornerback Fred Smoot, who on Monday said "we're going to take this underdog role and roll with it," had clammed up by Wednesday.

"I ain't got nothing to say, baby," Smoot said. "I just can't wait for Sunday to play some football."

Several players jokingly wondered whether there was any point in talking about the game or even showing up for it, given that all the focus seems to be on next week's expected showdown of unbeatens New England and Indianapolis.

As for trying to find a weakness in the Patriots, the Redskins could hope that the Patriots are already looking ahead to the Colts, but that's an unlikely development on a team coached by Belichick. Receiver Antwaan Randle El said perhaps there's something to be noticed about the fact that New England has yet to play a close game.

"The biggest thing -- and I really wouldn't call it a weakness -- but you haven't seen them play a normal game," Randle El said. "They haven't had to do all phases a lot in one game. That's what you want to get a team like this to do."

So, depending on whom you ask, the Redskins are either scared, quietly confident or simply mum about their chances of pulling the upset.

Or just funny. Secondary coach Jerry Gray, who has two cornerbacks (Smoot and Carlos Rogers) not at 100 percent because of injuries, was asked what the Redskins can do to stop New England's talented receivers.

"Pray," Gray deadpanned. "Hopefully one of them slips, something like that."

Notes: Smoot (hamstring) and Rogers (knee) were limited in practice again Thursday, but both were confident of playing Sunday. ... T Stephon Heyer (hamstring) and S Pierson Prioleau (soreness) were full participants in practice and sitting out most of Wednesday's session. ... RB-KR Rock Cartwright (quad) sat out again and appears unlikely to play.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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