A week after shining against Dallas, the Redskins' defense falters and it costs Washington the game

By Rick Maese
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 20, 2010; 12:18 AM

In the end, Houston's offensive output didn't seem to matter. Matt Schaub's monster figures, which looked more like lotto numbers than an NFL stat line, meant very little. Even the final score felt like a footnote.

The way defensive players view it, the offense lifted the Redskins to a 2-0 record Sunday against the Texans. But before the win could become official, Washington's defense let the Texans back into the game, turning a momentous win into a heartbreaking defeat.

"It's not frustrating that we lost," cornerback DeAngelo Hall said after the Texans' 30-27 overtime win. "It's frustrating that we had the game won and we lost."

One week ago, the Redskins' defense scored the team's lone touchdown and held the Dallas Cowboys to just seven points. It appeared this defense would be capable of carrying the team while the offensive unit became comfortable in its new skin, not to mention its new scheme. But that wasn't the case Sunday against the Texans. As much as this defense is capable of winning a game, players showed that they're just as able to let one slip away.

After their offense soared, the Redskins' defense allowed the Texans to crawl out of a 17-point hole and eventually pull out the win in overtime. Along the way, Schaub threw for nearly 500 yards and the Washington defense kept giving up big plays, including eight for 20 or more yards.

"Good defenses - defenses that make the playoffs and win championships - can't allow that," linebacker London Fletcher said.

"It's on us as a defense," the defensive captain said. "We didn't get the job done today."

The Redskins held a 20-7 lead at the half and eventually extended it to 27-10. It remained that way until the final seconds of the third quarter. The Redskins had more than 15 minutes to protect a three-possession lead. Blowing it was a new experience for most of the defensive players.

"I never have," linebacker Andre Carter said. "I've been on a team that has come back from 17. But this is a first."

Schaub finished the game with 497 yards and three touchdowns on 38-of-52 passing. The Texans piled up 526 yards of total offense, had 29 first downs, converted 6 of 14 third-down attempts and ran 81 offensive plays, compared with the Redskins' 58. The game marked the most yards the Redskins have given up since December 2006 when St. Louis tallied 579 yards.

At the half Sunday, the Texans had totaled 198 yards of offense - 51 on the ground and 147 in the air. The Texans had scored just one touchdown, and the Redskins' defense had come up with an interception. They entered the locker room with confidence.

"Mentally, we discussed it. We talked about what we still needed to do," Carter said. "And we played our butts off. But it was just little things, mental errors here and there."

In the second half and overtime, Schaub threw for 332 yards, the Texans scored two touchdowns and three field goals.

On fourth and 10, Houston wide receiver Andre Johnson jumped over safety Reed Doughty in the end zone to snare a 34-yard pass with 2 minutes 3 seconds remaining in regulation to tie the game. It capped a drive the Redskins might not feel like reviewing when they gather to watch film this week. With 3:16 remaining, the Redskins still held a seven-point lead. A defensive stop would have ended the game. But Schaub hit Johnson for 29 yards and then Jacoby Jones for 18. After three incompletions, Schaub targeted Johnson in the end zone and took advantage of the mismatch over Doughty.

"We just didn't make the plays. The plays are sitting right there for us to make," Hall said. "We didn't make them."

In overtime, Houston reached Redskins territory but settled for a punt from the Washington 39-yard line. On their second possession, they again powered through the Washington defense, pushing the Redskins backward.

For much of Houston's final possession, the Redskins' top two safeties were on the sideline: LaRon Landry nursing a wrist injury and Kareem Moore inactive for the second straight week because of a knee injury.

The Texans spotted a weakness in a defense that was supposed to have few. First, Chris Horton, temporarily replacing Landry, was drawn offside on third and nine. Then Schaub went right after Horton, burning the third-year safety for a 28-yard pass to Joel Dreessen to the Redskins 18-yard line. Two plays later, Neil Rackers kicked the 35-yard field goal to win the game.

"This offense came out here and played outstanding football. We can win like that," Hall said. "We can't win playing the kind of defense we played today. We won't win like that."

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