Giants' running backs force Redskins into mistakes

By Rick Maese
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 5, 2010; 11:58 PM

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan didn't need to wait for the first question at his postgame news conference.

"We can't tackle that way," he said.

In the locker room, not a single Redskins player was about to argue with that blunt assertion.

In their 31-7 loss to the New York Giants Sunday, the Redskins showed a tackling style that consisted mostly of outstretched arms and idly swiping at a blur of blue laundry. The result was one of the Redskins' worst defensive outings against the run in recent years.

That much, players and coaches agreed upon. But explaining why the team struggled to tackle the Giants - particularly running backs Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw, who combined for 200 yards on 33 carries - wasn't as easy.

Was it the defensive line's fault?

"It wasn't a situation where the front line guys were missing," said linebacker London Fletcher.

So does blame fall on the linebackers' shoulders?

"I don't play other linebacker positions. I know I got containment outside," said second-year outside linebacker Brian Orakpo. "I don't know what else is going on."

What about the safeties - the duo of Kareem Moore and Reed Doughty, who seemed to spend much of the afternoon hugging air?

"You'd just like to know that if you miss, somebody else is going to come hit him right in the back," Doughty said. "You say, 'next play.' That wasn't happening."

When players gather at Redskins Park Monday to dissect film, they'll likely see that a lot of defensive players contributed to Sunday's tackling calamity. Giants running backs had no problem making their cuts, slipping through the second level and blowing up the team's last line of defense.

"They just ran the ball down our throats," said Orakpo. "We missed tackles, we - I don't know, man. It's crazy, man. I'm just embarrassed."

Entering Sunday's game, the Redskins had given up only four rushing touchdowns on five occasions since 1960. Even Philadelphia, which hung 59 points on the Redskins last month, only managed three rushing touchdowns.

But Bradshaw and Jacobs each found the end zone twice, accounting for all four of the Giants' touchdowns.

Most of the damage was done in the first half, when the running backs rolled over Washington for 139 yards and three touchdowns.

"The effort was there, but we missed tackles," Shanahan said. "You take a look at the missed tackles, it was one right after another."

On the game's opening drive, the Giants ran for 57 yards and threw for only two. Jacobs made linebacker Rocky McIntosh whiff on the game's second play and turned it into a 39-yard gain. He later scored from eight yards, untouched the whole way.

On the afternoon, Jacobs, who posted his first 100-yard game since 2008, had only eight carries but caused plenty of problems. On his second touchdown, Jacobs made Doughty miss in the open field and scored from 28 yards. Jacobs measures 6 foot 4 and weighs 264 pounds. According to Redskins defensive end Phillip Daniels, players were "scared" to tackle him.

"When you tackle somebody, you don't think about the guy. You think about your technique and how you tackle," Daniels said. "That's the thing. A guy like that, you hit him around the kneecaps a few times, they don't run the same. But we let them get started early and it's a long day. That's how it works."

Prior to this season, the Redskins hadn't given up 190 rushing yards in a game since 2006. They've now relinquished at least that many twice this season.

The Giants revealed no secret wrinkles on Sunday. Players saw power, counter and stretch plays. Despite missing three starting offensive linemen, the Giants blocked well up front and defensive backs were often left alone to handle Jacobs or Bradshaw.

"Giants knew to put our safeties and our corners in bad situations - our little guys to tackle their big guys," Orakpo said.

Doughty, starting at strong safety in place of injured LaRon Landry, acknowledged that Jacobs beat him on the third-quarter touchdown. But ideally, he said, he'd never be forced to face Jacobs one on one.

"Any time you get open-field tackling, that's not the situation you want to be," he said. "We really got to get hats to the ball. You've got to have people gang tackling."

With four games remaining, Redskins players say they'll hit the practice field this week and focus more on fundamentals. But it's a point of emphasis they acknowledge every one in the locker room really should know by now.

"Tackling is the first thing you learn as a kid," said Daniels. "There's no excuse for missed tackles."

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