Ailing Defenders Make a Healthy Showing

By Dan Steinberg
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 7, 2007

By the fourth quarter, one Redskins starting cornerback, Fred Smoot, was throwing up blood in the locker room, watching on television as the Redskins attempted to hold onto their lead.

The other starting corner, Shawn Springs, had a lingering back injury and wasn't even supposed to be on the field; when he arrived at FedEx Field last night, his locker was bare, and he had to find and unpack his equipment himself.

Redskins defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin, meantime, looked down in the fourth quarter and saw blood streaming from a gash in his right forearm.

"I don't know what happened," he said later. "Just wipe it off and keep going."

And amid such distractions, the Chicago Bears were driving for exactly the sort of fourth-quarter score that had ruined so many previous Redskins games, eventually getting first and goal from the 1-yard line. They needed a touchdown and extra point to tie the game.

Three plays later, Chicago had lost three yards and settled for a field goal; that series helped preserve both Washington's 24-16 victory and its playoff hopes.

Just four days earlier, Washington had coughed up an 11-point second-half lead in a loss to the Buffalo Bills. Midway through the fourth quarter last night, the Bears drove 70 yards on nine plays and were on the verge of erasing the last chunk of what had been a 14-point second-half lead.

"We knew at that moment in time, if they score here, we're going to be in trouble," defensive tackle Kedric Golston said. "We needed to just focus in, knowing this was probably the most important play of the game right there, for momentum and everything."

On first down at the 1, Griffin blasted through the line and stopped Adrian Peterson for a three-yard loss.

On second and third downs, Chicago quarterback Brian Griese threw incomplete. By the time he got the ball back, his team was down by 11.

"Our whole mind-set game-by-game is just to play relentless; that's all I can say," defensive end Andre Carter said. "You know what you have to do. Just do not let them score. Make them kick field goals. Do not let them score."

Washington's defense completed a third straight solid showing without both its Pro Bowl safety, Sean Taylor, and its No. 1 cornerback, injured Carlos Rogers. In those three games, Washington has yielded a total of two touchdowns and an average of 17.3 points a game. That number would rank fifth in the NFL over an entire season.

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