By Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 24, 2007
What sign was the most disturbing for the Washington Redskins as the defense collapsed yesterday in the second half of a 24-17 loss to the New York Giants at FedEx Field?
It could have been New York's stunning third-down efficiency against a unit that began the game ranked first in the NFL in stopping opponents on third down. Perhaps it was Washington's poor tackling at times, contributing to New York's big plays in overcoming a 14-point halftime deficit.
To be sure, those problems were high on the list.
But for Gregg Williams, assistant head coach-defense, the sight of key defensive players slowed by injuries or receiving treatment topped the low moments in a rough day. After taking a bend-but-don't-break approach on defense in a 2-0 start, the Redskins yesterday were banged up and in need of repair.
"With the bumps and bruises," Williams said, "rehab is going to be just as critical as working on some of the situational football things we have to work on on the football field."
It seems the bye week came just in time for the defense, which kept Bubba Tyer busy after halftime.
Tyer, the team's director of sports medicine, and his staff were on the field often, evaluating starting weak-side linebacker Rocky McIntosh, starting left defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin and starting defensive end Phillip Daniels, among others.
McIntosh went to the sideline late in the game after experiencing pain in both shoulders. Rookie linebacker H.B. Blades replaced him in crucial situations, which wasn't good news for Washington.
A hard-working rookie, Blades is supposed to be relegated to special teams. The fact that Blades was in the game with the outcome undecided -- well, that's not what the Redskins expected.
"You could say that, but I saw the young guy come in there and make plays," starting strong-side linebacker Marcus Washington said. "The young guy didn't expect to be in that position, and it's tough when you don't know if you're going to play and you get in there. But you can't stop when guys go down. You just have to keep going on, and that's what we had to do."
The Redskins had to move on often without McIntosh, an integral part of Williams's scheme, and it appeared he wasn't feeling well physically for much of the game.
"No comment," McIntosh said. "I just really don't want to talk about it. You'll have to talk to" the team about that.
There was no need to seek comment on McIntosh's importance to a defense that isn't considered deep enough to overcome the loss of key performers, even for a few plays.
Griffin's ankle problem also affected things. And Daniels, inactive in last week's victory over Philadelphia because of a foot injury, also spent some quality time with the medical staff.
"When the schedule first came out, some people thought the bye might be coming too soon, but the open date is coming at a great time for us," Williams said. "We've got to get some guys fresh."
The assortment of injuries was less painful for the Redskins than the way they finished the game.
New York converted 9 of 16 third-down attempts, including seven in a row in one second-half stretch, helping to overcome three turnovers. Last season, the Redskins set an NFL record by forcing only 12 turnovers in a 16-game schedule, so their work in that area Sunday should have been a positive.
"But when you don't finish the game, when you don't keep making plays, then it doesn't matter what you did," Griffin said. "You have to play until the game is finished. You have to play every play, because any team can beat you in the NFL."
The Redskins expected to be tested on third down, but the Giants took things to a higher level, players said.
"We knew what the Giants could do on third down, but they made even more plays than we expected," right defensive end Andre Carter said. "And on third down, we didn't tackle well, which is so unlike us.
"As a player, you try to look at yourself in the mirror when you're not playing well. You try to look at yourself and always do the job, and you have to look at yourself harder when you're not doing it."
In addition to injuries and poor tackling, the Redskins were not sharp in their assignments, players said.
"We got out of position on a few things," cornerback Shawn Springs said. "Whether it was me one time or somebody else on another play, we just didn't play well. There are some things that we just have to get corrected."
The Redskins will have time to rest and study during the bye week, which won't be as much fun as it would have been had the defense been able to hold off the Giants.
"I think there was some pressure," McIntosh said of the team trying to be 3-0 at the bye week. "Everybody was talking about trying to be 3-0, especially coming off an emotional win over Philadelphia.
"We just didn't finish the game we needed to as a defense. That's something we're going to have to think a lot about."