Defense gets lift from Robert Griffin III, offense

Redskins linebacker London Fletcher

Redskins linebacker London Fletcher breaks up a pass to Saints running back Darren Sproles in Washington’s 40-32 season-opening victory. (John McDonnell/Washington Post)

The Washington Redskins’ defense was on the field so infrequently during Sunday’s 40-32 victory over the New Orleans Saints that nose tackle Barry Cofield joked the unit was getting a little tight watching quarterback Robert Griffin III’s dazzling debut.

In truth, the defense benefited greatly from the extended rest, especially late in the game when Saints quarterback Drew Brees was frantically trying to rally the Saints to a comeback. The Redskins were able to apply pressure and keep the record-setting quarterback from getting comfortable in the pocket. That disruption in the Saints’ typically lethal passing game led to two interceptions in the fourth quarter that helped seal the Redskins’ improbable win.

“I don’t know how else to say it except it just makes it easier,” Redskins defensive end Adam Carriker said of the offense’s nearly two-to-one margin in time of possession, “because you know the offense is going to control the ball, control the clock, they’re going to move the ball, and they’re going to put up points. So maybe [the defense] can be a little more aggressive, and you can just let it hang out a little bit more.”

The Redskins were particularly stout against the run, holding the Saints to 32 yards. With so little success in the run game, New Orleans became one dimensional on offense, and Washington’s front seven was able to pressure Brees when he dropped back to pass.

Washington excelled even without a handful of contributors in the secondary, including safeties Brandon Meriweather and Tanard Jackson. Meriweather is out two to four weeks with a knee injury, and Jackson is suspended indefinitely for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.

“It’s inspiring to see our offense go out there and have a great performance like that,” linebacker Brian Orakpo said. “I mean to totally dominate a defense like that and to just continue to move the ball, score points, Robert Griffin making things happen, the offensive line blocking their tails off, [Alfred] Morris running the ball well. That’s just huge motivation for us especially being so early in the season.”

 

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