“Takes one guy,” Coach Mike Shanahan said. “One missed tackle.”
That one play provided a good chunk of Jackson’s 120-yard day, overshadowed what defensive coordinator Jim Haslett felt was a good performance by his unit, and left Redskins fans wondering: “Why can’t this team stop the run?”
“It’s one of those deals where if [Fox] probably would’ve gotten a couple of reps there,” Haslett said, “they wouldn’t have gotten that run on us.”
In the NFL, there is an explanation for everything — why one play worked or didn’t, who was responsible for what, how an opposing player found himself running unhindered. And while the Redskins’ offense has been forced to do its share of explaining in the days after the 23-0 debacle against Buffalo, the defense has been left to articulate why, in three consecutive losses, it has allowed an average of 156.5 yards a game on the ground — all with the specter of the run-first San Francisco 49ers (6-1) arriving this Sunday.
“You got to take it as a whole,” Haslett said. “You’d like to do better. We’d like to do better in all phases. The long run was disappointing last week to me. It’s been a series of things. The week before was all the different stuff [run by Carolina]. The week before that, we missed too many tackles” against Philadelphia.
The result: The Redskins are allowing 120.4 yards per game on the ground, an average that ranks 21st in the NFL (and is slightly better than the 127.6 yards per game Washington allowed a year ago, which was 26th). The downward trend — allowing 192, 175 and 138 yards in losses to Philadelphia, Carolina and Buffalo, respectively — has come against top-10 offenses. But the challenge changes little this week: Veteran Frank Gore is the NFL’s fifth-leading rusher. Over the past five weeks of the season, no team has averaged more than San Francisco’s 188.5 yards rushing per game.
“It’s about all of us being accountable and doing our jobs,” defensive end Stephen Bowen said. “We were able to do it. Everybody seemed to do it at the beginning of the year. We just got to get back to doing it.”
In a 2-0 start, the Redskins allowed the New York Giants — long known as a powerful running team — and the Arizona Cardinals just 84 yards rushing per game. The defense, which ranked next-to-last in yards allowed a year ago, appeared on the rise. After an Oct. 2 victory at St. Louis — where marquee back Steven Jackson and the Rams were limited to 45 yards on the ground — Shanahan called the defense’s performance the best since he arrived in Washington.