Redskins see modest signs of improvement from their defense
By Mark Maske,
The Washington Redskins spent Monday savoring the superb crunch-time performance by their rookie quarterback, Robert Griffin III, in Tampa a day earlier, when he led his team down the field in the final two minutes for a field goal that beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
But they also felt a little bit better about their embattled defense, which had its struggles in the second half against the Buccaneers but managed to keep an opposing quarterback from reaching 300 passing yards for the first time this season — albeit by only a yard.
“I felt like we got better,” linebacker Rob Jackson said Monday in the locker room at Redskins Park. “We still gave up a few big plays in the second half. In the first half, we played pretty solid, got to Josh [Freeman, Buccaneers’ quarterback] a couple times, got him rattled, had him make a couple bad decisions, stopped the run.”
The Buccaneers became the first Redskins opponent to fall short of 30 points this season. The New Orleans Saints scored 32 in their season-opening loss to the Redskins, although seven came on a touchdown after a blocked punt. The Redskins followed with a two-game losing streak, yielding 31 points to the St. Louis Rams and 38 points to the Cincinnati Bengals.
So Sunday’s game was a relatively significant improvement. The Buccaneers were held to 22 points.
“The last few weeks, since the Rams game, nobody has really run the ball on us,” safety Reed Doughty said Monday. “That’s a big thing. You’ve got to make them one-dimensional. . .We’ve just got to stand up a little more in the passing game and disrupt.”
Freeman threw for 299 yards and one touchdown Sunday. That came after the Redskins’ first three opponents totaled 1,050 passing yards and 10 touchdown passes. Quarterbacks Drew Brees of New Orleans, Sam Bradford of St. Louis and Andy Dalton of Cincinnati each topped 300 yards, and Bengals wide receiver Mohamed Sanu threw a 73-yard touchdown pass after lining up at quarterback in a Wildcat formation.
“I thought we played well in the first half,” Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan said Monday of the defense’s performance in Tampa. “Second half, you can’t give up those big plays. . . Instead of giving up 250 yards in a game and holding your opponent to six or nine points, you give up 370 [actually 373] yards in a game. So we’re going to have to keep on working to eliminate those big plays.”
The Redskins limited the Buccaneers to a pair of first-half field goals. But Freeman had completions of 65 yards to Mike Williams and 54 yards to fellow wideout Vincent Jackson to set up second-half touchdowns for the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay overcame a 21-3 deficit to take a 22-21 lead before Griffin took the Redskins on a final drive that culminated with place kicker Billy Cundiff’s 41-yard field goal with three seconds left. That gave the Redskins the 24-22 triumph that evened their record at 2-2.
“Where we had made some plays in the first half, they made some plays” in the second half, Doughty said. “Vince Jackson is a big receiver.. . .He’s a big target. He made some plays in the red zone. He made a play down the field. We need to be the ones coming up with the plays. It’s not like we didn’t have good coverages.. . .There’s really no coaching [issue] or really any scheme to talk about. We’ve just somehow got to find a way to make the play.”
The Redskins are playing without linebacker Brian Orakpo and defensive end Adam Carriker, who are on the injured reserve list. They thought they’d have safety Brandon Meriweather back in the lineup in Tampa before he re-injured his left knee in a collision with wide receiver Aldrick Robinson during pregame warmups. Shanahan said Monday that Meriweather is now expected to be sidelined at least another week. Doughty started Sunday in place of Meriweather. Third cornerback Cedric Griffin also missed Sunday’s game because of a hamstring injury.
Redskins defenders at least could take solace in the fact they’d contributed to a win this time.
“The victory is everything,” Jackson said. “If we gave up another 300-yard passing game, we still feel good because we got the win. There’s work to do and to improve. But we still got the win.”
For more on the Redskins: Hamilton: Redskins, RGIII fight through obstacles to beat Bucs RGIII leads game-winning drive, Cundiff makes game-winning kick Redskins players rave about heroics of their rookie quarterback Shanahan says team not looking to work out kickers Hard Hits: A 2-2 start isn’t bad, but road gets tougher now