By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 18, 2010; 1:48 AM
The final statistics would seem to point out exactly how the Washington Redskins lost, 27-24, Sunday night to the Indianapolis Colts. They gave up 469 yards. They allowed the Colts 6.9 yards per offensive play. They were killed by the running of Joseph Addai (128 yards) and the passing of Peyton Manning (307 yards). End of story.
But in the locker room afterward, the players who make up a defense that has allowed more yards than any team in the league concentrated on disasters that were physical rather than statistical.
"We had wide-open layups," cornerback DeAngelo Hall said, "and didn't make the layups."
"They're huge," safety Reed Doughty said.
"We blew it," linebacker Brian Orakpo said.
The plays in question: Two dropped interceptions by cornerback Carlos Rogers and another easy one by free safety Kareem Moore. The first two might have given the Redskins field position they could have converted more easily to points. The last one would have stopped a drive that ended in an Indianapolis touchdown.
So the tenor among the Redskins: Don't tell us about statistics, because we could have changed the game with simple fundamentals.
"Those are game-changing-type plays as far as takeaways we could've had, especially because they were early in the football game," inside linebacker London Fletcher said. "You could take away possessions."
The Redskins, who entered the game allowing a league-worst 410.2 yards per game, chose to attack Manning and the Colts by almost exclusively employing a package that used six defensive backs, four linebackers and a lone down lineman. Manning countered with his usual routine: A no-huddle offense that gives him the opportunity to change plays at the line of scrimmage, constantly keeping the defense reeling.
On the Colts' first possession, the Redskins forced a third-down. Manning looked for wide receiver Austin Collie down the left seam, but Rogers had a bead on it. The sixth-year cornerback has notoriously bad hands, but he made an athletic play to get them on the ball. When he came to the ground, though, he couldn't hang on. The play was ruled incomplete, and the first opportunity was gone.
The next one came with the Colts up 7-0, just past the midway point of the first quarter. On second down from the Washington 45, Rogers went to break up a pass to tight end Dallas Clark. Again, he got his hands on the ball. Again, he couldn't hold on.
The last indignity: On second down from the Indianapolis 23, when Manning again looked downfield for Collie. This time, it was Moore who got his hands on it. This time, it was Moore who let the opportunity slip away.
"You can't win like that," Hall said.
The Redskins didn't. But there weren't only questions about missed chances afterward. There were also questions about the Redskins' overall defensive approach. Not only did their primary alignment - the "dime" package, with six defensive backs - fail to generate much pressure on Manning, it allowed the veteran quarterback to call calculated run plays, several of which gashed the Redskins when they had just one down lineman.
"We got linebackers and defensive backs against 315 pounds," Orakpo said. "You do the math. Like I said, they just caught us in certain packages. Obviously, they studied our personnel. They know what we like to do. But we just got to be stronger at the point."
Indianapolis's running game provided even more chances for changes in momentum. When the Redskins cut the Colts' lead to 17-14 early in the third quarter, Indianapolis got the ball back and immediately handed it to Addai - who busted 46 yards through a porous defense. Three plays after that, Addai burst into the end zone from 13 yards out, running over Washington safeties LaRon Landry and Moore en route.
"Any time a team runs the ball on you, it comes down to gap control, no matter who you have out there," defensive lineman Kedric Golston said. "It doesn't matter if you have 11 kickers out there, everybody has to have their gap. It goes back to fundamentals."
It also leaves open the question of what, fundamentally, the Redskins are on defense. They have committed to switching to a 3-4 alignment under coordinator Jim Haslett, yet they are also trying to be versatile enough to draw up plans specifically for a quarterback such as Manning. Hall called it a "work in progress."
"You don't learn the ins and outs of it overnight," Doughty said. "We all know what to do. It's just a matter of playing off of each other."
Players stressed, though, that Sunday night's failings had little to do with the 3-4 - because they barely played it. Player after player, over and over, pointed to those dropped interceptions - the plays that could have changed the conversation, not to mention the result, but didn't.
"At the end of the day, we still aren't happy with what we're doing," Fletcher said. "Defensively, we're missing a lot of opportunities."