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With More Defensive Struggles, Redskins Suffer a Familiar Loss to the Bengals

Doomed by a powerless blitz, cornerback Carlos Rogers is left helpless on this 12-yard touchdown pass to the Bengals' Chris Henry.
Doomed by a powerless blitz, cornerback Carlos Rogers is left helpless on this 12-yard touchdown pass to the Bengals' Chris Henry. (By Jonathan Newton -- The Washington Post)
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By Jason La Canfora
Monday, December 15, 2008

CINCINNATI

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This loss began for Carlos Rogers the way last week's ended, with the cornerback on an island in man coverage, the rest of his teammates assigned to attack the quarterback in an all-out blitz, and the ball landing behind him for a touchdown.

This time, shaky quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was the beneficiary of the blown cover-0 scheme, without a single defender able to harass him on the play despite the heavy blitz. Wide receiver Chris Henry was allowed to pull off a double move, with enough time to fake an inside slant before getting behind Rogers to catch what was a fade to the back of the end zone. It was a replay of the touchdown Derrick Mason caught to cement Baltimore's win last week.

"That touchdown pass wasn't on Carlos," said defensive coordinator Greg Blache, calling this "almost an identical scenario" to the Mason catch. "There should have been some pressure in that guy's [Fitzpatrick] face that didn't happen. You shouldn't be able to get a double move on a [cover] zero play."

Sunday's 20-13 debacle at Paul Brown Stadium against Cincinnati, a 1-11-1 team at the start of the day, had many of the same stark overtones as last week's setback. The Redskins' defense received no support from the offense and, while holding an opponent to a manageable point total, was chasing the game from the opening drive. There was never a hint of a sufficient pass rush -- allowing another novice passer superior protection. That deficiency has long undermined this unit, and the Redskins botched opportunities to grasp deflected and errant passes, forcing no turnovers against an outfit that entered the game with the fifth-most giveaways in the NFL.

Late in the game, Washington could not get a struggling opposition offense off the field, with the Bengals' 7-minute, 13-second scoring drive putting the game away just as Baltimore's 7:52 scoring march did last week. A widespread breakdown on a predictable screen pass -- which went for 79 yards -- was a pivotal play in Cincinnati's other touchdown drive, and now the season is all but over, a 6-2 start devolving into a 7-7 mark that effectively will leave the Redskins playing for nothing but pride in the final two weeks.

Perhaps, given that reality, we may see more of the hodgepodge of defenders that Blache put together yesterday, with injuries and what he dubbed "executive decisions" resulting in unusual personnel groupings. Little-used draft picks received much more playing time; more established veterans sat and watched.

The sight of Rogers and starting linebacker Rocky McIntosh sitting side by side, their feet next to heaters, as the season slipped away, was far removed from how it began, with both recovering from reconstructive knee surgeries far ahead of schedule and contributing regularly. Rogers earned praise for his Pro Bowl-caliber play. Now, both wonder about their future as this organization claws for direction once more.

Rogers, Washington's top corner for the first three-quarters of the season, was a sparsely used nickel back Sunday. McIntosh, his chronically ailing knees aching again, was spared further physical abuse and spent all but the first few drives on the sidelines.

So with the season in the balance, Blache turned to safeties Mike Green and Kareem Moore, linebackers Alfred Fincher and H.B. Blades, corner DeAngelo Hall, tackle Ryan Boschetti and end Rob Jackson, all of whom were either not on the roster before this 1-5 slide or almost exclusively on special teams.

Rogers said he was shocked to learn of his limited role and said he did not know that he was not starting until he heard the announcement of the lineups over the public address system before the game. "Nobody said nothing, nobody explained nothing," said Rogers, the ninth overall pick in 2005 and a free agent after next season. "I guess I've got to go back and evaluate how I play." McIntosh echoed those remarks about his role. "I was surprised, but you have to ask Coach about that one," he said.


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