By Howard Bryant
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 23, 2006
INDIANAPOLIS, Oct. 22 -- After five losses in seven games, the Washington Redskins' defensive players acknowledged they finally have reached that telling and unattractive point in a season where they find themselves repeating the same phrases each week, yet the results do not change.
When the Redskins lost to the New York Giants, linebacker Marcus Washington said he could not put his finger on one thing. Tennessee's upset win last week at FedEx Field left Redskins defensive end Phillip Daniels saying if he could put his finger on the source of the team's problems, he would. Sunday, following a 36-22 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, defensive end Andre Carter said he wasn't quite sure if he could put his finger on why the Redskins are 2-5, especially, he said, "when it just doesn't feel like this team is 2-5."
"It's like the same thing over and over again," Carter said. "We have too much talent on this team to be in this situation, but we are. The same stuff keeps happening."
If the defense that allowed Peyton Manning to throw for 342 yards and a season-high 140.4 passer rating and yielded 452 total yards -- the most under a Gregg Williams defense in Washington -- can't quite pinpoint its problems, the results on the field suggest otherwise. The poor tackling and inability to react to cutbacks that allowed Tennessee running back Travis Henry to gain 178 yards last week were apparent again Sunday, and Indianapolis rushed 25 times for 110 yards. With 85 yards on 11 carries, Joseph Addai averaged 7.7 yards per carry. Addai's 64 third-quarter yards were key to a game-breaking period where the Colts outscored the Redskins 20-0 and turned a 14-13 deficit into a 33-14 lead.
"That's the player he is," Washington said of Manning. "He's not going to lay down. He's going to fight, and they were able to make some plays.
"That big drive right there at the beginning of the second half gave them the momentum."
Momentum is what the Redskins' defense hasn't been able to maintain. Key second-half drives have sent offenses soaring at their expense. Manning's third-quarter drive was as backbreaking as the New York Giants' 15-play drive to start the second half two weeks ago that broke open a close game.
"We have to play better in the second half. To start the third quarter we haven't been playing that well coming out of the locker room," Daniels said. "You can't let Manning get started, and that's what we did. We let him get started."
Wide receiver Reggie Wayne caught seven passes for 122 yards. In the third quarter, Manning recorded a perfect 158.3 passer rating after appearing to be shaken during a hard-hitting second quarter.
"I think what we did earlier was rattle him a little bit, but [we] couldn't quite capture that momentum in the second half," Washington said. "If we could have come out and stopped him, it would have been a different ballgame. But we couldn't put our offense in a position to do something."
The Redskins began using more defensive personnel combinations than at any point of the season.
The defensive end tandem of Renaldo Wynn and Demetric Evans was in on running downs more frequently, while starters Daniels and Carter were rotated in on pass-rushing downs. Newly acquired Troy Vincent split time with Adam Archuleta at safety. And rookie Rocky McIntosh played in some of the packages.
Part of the reason for the shifting of personnel, Carter said, was the Colts' no-huddle offense.
"In a way, we've been doing this all year," Carter said. "Here, it was particularly important because they wanted to keep us fresh, especially for the fourth quarter, when you really need to have your legs under you."
Williams added that the Redskins simply are not healthy. Khary Campbell, usually the Redskins' special teams leader, started at middle linebacker in place of the injured Lemar Marshall. Defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin did not play, leaving rookies Kedric Golston and Anthony Montgomery to rotate with Joe Salave'a, who played despite a nagging strained left calf. Cornerbacks Shawn Springs, Mike Rumph, Kenny Wright and even Ade Jimoh took turns rotating in coverage.
Only two players, Washington and safety Sean Taylor, played virtually the entire game in their normal positions.
These were the reasons for the patchwork changes, but to some degree, Williams said he was also looking for a formula, perhaps an odd combination or two to coax a performance out of a group that this season has yielded far more big plays than it has produced.
"What we need is for someone to make a big play," Williams said. "You can talk and draw it up and discuss, but you need a big play."