Redskins' defense comes up big against Philadelphia Eagles

By Rick Maese
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 4, 2010; 12:29 AM

PHILADELPHIA - It had been a long week for the Redskins' defense. So used to being considered one of the league's most consistent and most dominant defenses, players entered a much-anticipated division showdown against the Eagles ranked last in the league.

"We were under a lot of scrutiny," linebacker London Fletcher said, "and it was well deserved."

Before the Redskins' 17-12 win Sunday, the Eagles ranked third in the NFL in points scored, averaging nearly 28 a game. The Redskins' defense managed to hold them to just a pair of field goals until the closing minutes of the game, when the Eagles finally found the end zone. The loss marked the fewest points the Eagles had scored since Oct. 18, 2009.

It was an important rebound game for a unit that had struggled in losses to Houston and St. Louis the previous two weeks.

"We came in here with an excellent game plan," said cornerback DeAngelo Hall, whose interception as time expired sealed the Redskins' second win of the season. "We knew what we had to do."

The results Sunday were as different as the team's game plan. The Redskins had been blitzing opponents heavily, hunting the quarterback and chasing the ball. But lined up against an athletic Michael Vick, they shuffled their personnel and took a more conservative approach Sunday.

The blitzes were held to a minimum and the Redskins typically rushed only four or five players. Lorenzo Alexander got the nod over Andre Carter as a starting linebacker because of his mobility. Lineman Albert Haynesworth saw increased playing time and turned in his best performance of the season. And the secondary switched to a cover-two zone and made certain the Eagles' dangerous receivers had little breathing room.

The plan worked. The Eagles still racked up 353 yards of offense, but only crossed the Redskins 20-yard line twice. The Redskins also forced two turnovers.

"[Defensive coordinator] Jim Haslett did a great job today," said Eagles Coach Andy Reid. "They played soft cover-two, they were deepening up the corners and deepening up the linebackers."

The Redskins had been preparing since before the season began to face Eagles quarterback Kevin Kolb. They adjusted their defensive game plan when Reid made Vick the team's starting quarterback. Vick, though, was knocked out of the game at the end of the first quarter.

"We sat back and wanted to play with vision this game," said Alexander. "Keep Vick in front of us. And we kind of kept the same game plan, even when they brought Kolb in."

Through the season's first three games, only the Houston Texans had fared worse against the pass than the Redskins, but Washington had no problems with the Eagles' receiving tandem of DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, who had combined for the fourth-most yards of any receiving duo in the league. Their six total touchdowns was as good as any other pair in the league.

Jackson entered the game ranked third in the league with 318 receiving yards. His 24.5 yards per reception was tops in the league. He finished Sunday's game with a season-low 19 yards on three receptions, a credit to the Redskins' physical play, said Reid.

"They banged him around a little bit," said the Eagles coach.

Said Hall: "Any time you can go out and shut down an explosive receiver like that, you'll have a chance to win. We knew that . . . We knew if we came out, took care of him and Maclin, we'd have a chance to win."

Maclin had four touchdowns coming into the game, tied for most among wide receivers. He also had only one catch - a 15-yarder - and was targeted only twice all day.

The Redskins often fielded four defensive linemen, using Alexander at defensive tackle and Carter at defensive end, positions both played last season.

"That's the level of our 3-4 defense, the variety of packages we have," Carter said. "You don't know who's coming and who's going . . . We're so deep, we can tweak a few things, move around and it was great."

The Redskins carried only five defensive linemen into the game, which meant Haynesworth had his busiest day of the season. He had four tackles, including one for a loss, and batted down one pass.

"The more I get to play, the better I get," he said.

The Redskins' defenders knew they underperformed in the team's recent losses, and they said Sunday's win gives them a step back in the right direction.

"I think today we got back and helped contribute to this victory," Fletcher said.

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