Redskin Coach Jack Pardee publicly criticized his defense yesterday, saying that the unit "can't continue to play this kind of defense for us to be successful."
Pardee, who had refused to blame his defenders when they surrendered 166 yards to Earl Campbell and 365 yards overall to Houston in the season opener, was much harsher after watching the films of his team's 27-24 victory Sunday over Detroit.
"We just have to get more reckless on defense, we have to sacrifice our bodies," he said. "It's difficult to protect a lead, but not that hard. There is no deep dark secret to what we have to do. We just have to start defeating a block and making a tackle."
Pardee would not rule out making some personnel changes, including more time for rookie middle linebacker Neal Okewicz, on defense this week. And he said that the team "possibly" could employ the 3-4 alignment more frequently Monday night against the struggling New York Giants in RFK Stadium, "but not necessarily."
The move to the 3-4, which the Redskins used extensively in the first half against the Lions, would depend on the health of Dave Butz, the nose guard in that formation.
The status of Butz, who twisted a knee Sunday probably will not be determined until the weekend. But Pardee said he thought the veteran lineman would be able to play.
The Redskins gave up 374 yards to the Lions, who were using a third-string rookie quarterback. Detroit was especially effective on the ground, powering for 217 yards against what Pardee has been advertising as an improved defensive unit.
But that group, ranked 24th against the run last year, now is giving up an average of 369 yards overall and 208 yards rushing in the first two games, compared to 307 and 158 in 1978.
"This is not going to be a great defense," Pardee said, "but it can play better than it has. Our number of interceptions (six) and turnovers and big plays are up; we are doing things we couldn't do last year.
"But the biggest thing we have to correct, after getting big leads, is that we are getting soft against the run. Instead of drawing back and playing it safe, we have to get more aggressive and go after people."
The problem facing Pardee and his staff now is how to get improved performances out of their present personnel. The front four has not played well, making few tackles in either game, although Pardee had hoped a new emphasis this season on stopping the run would increase their tackle involvement. The linebacking also has been inconsistent.
"That's the problem," he said. "No one has played awful and no one has played great. That would make it easier to make decisions. We wanted to force Houston inside last week and we did, but they were successful. The Lions kept getting outside.
"Our linebackers have to learn how to defeat the block and get to the ball carrier. We have got to get the run turned back inside and get more tackles from our linemen.
"We just aren't playing very good defense, that's what it amounts to. We are going to up the tempo in practices. Good teams know how to protect leads."
Although the defensive unit can point to the offense for contributing to the difficulties with crucial fourth-quarter turnovers in both games, Pardee was heavy in his praise of the Redskin attack yesterday. He did admit, however, "We have to do a better job in the fourth quarter to locking up the ball."
The Redskins have scored 54-points in the first two games, three more than in the first two last season (both wins) and the same total as in the final five contests of 1978 (all losses).
The unit has run the ball consistently, Joe Theismann has completed 61 percent of his passes and the offensive line has shown signs of turning into a formidable outfit.
"The way we moved the ball, the way we blocked the whole game, the way our backs are running so hard, if we are going to have any kind of year, be any kind of team, we have to keep building on those traits," Pardee said.
"Yes, what is happening has me puzzled. We play well on offense, but we made bad turnovers at the wrong time. We have six interceptions, yet we are soft on the run."
That is the irony of the season so far for the Redskins. The offense, which had looked so unimpressive during the preseason, has been effective while the defense, which handled itself nicely in exhibition games, now is struggling.
Perhaps at this stage of the team's reconstruction, that is the kind of inconsistency Pardee must learn to expect. But he admits it does not make his job any easier.
"How can this team relax when it's ahead?" he asked rhetorically. "I wonder about that too. We need to develop a killer instinct. The Redskins really have never had a killer instinct, they just played well enough to win.
"We still have a lot of veterans; we aren't that young in our starting units. We may be relaxing too much. How do you correct it? By getting a great player or two. When they don't let up, everyone else naturally picks up with them."
One of the team's few outstanding players, John Riggins, likewise has Pardee puzzled. Riggins is running hard and blocking well -- he knocked over -- and out -- Detroit's James Hunter Sunday on the block of the day -- but he still has made critical fumbles in both games.
"John can't be faulted for his effort," Pardee said; "He is going all out. Both he and Benny (Malone) are absorbing a lot of punishment because they are running so hard.
"John even is covering up well with the ball. He just can't seem to hold it those few times."
Riggins is just as perplexed by what has happened to him.
"I can't say I'll correct it, either," he said. "I certainly don't like being a billy goat two straight games. That hasn't happened to me before. I'm just not holding onto the football and I should be."
But the Redskins concede that any time they score 27 points in a game, they should not be pressed to win, as they have been so far. Other than alignment and personnel shifts, Pardee hopes that increased emphasis on defense in practice might help turn things around defensively.
"There is no excuse for what has happened," he said. "I didn't think we played that poorly against Houston, other than (not) stopping Campbell and having some tackling problems.
"But against Detroit we didn't defend the block well, we used poor pursuit angles and we still missed a few tackles. We didn't expect them to run as much so we were defending against the bomb and we still gave them a few bombs.
"I just know that our best football is still ahead of us. We haven't been playing that well, but I'll settle for being 1-1 at this point and build from there."
It is apparent that Pardee would like to have Perry Brooks, who is coming off an arm injury, available for defensive tackle duty. But Brooks, on the injured reserve list, can't be activated for another game . , ; The Giants have lost both of their games. Pardee said he would expect the Redskins to be ready Monday night because "Monday night at RFK is a sight to behold. It's one of the most exciting places I've been in," . . . No other injuries from Sunday's game were reported by the Redskins. . . First in that contest: Mark Murphy's first pro interception, tight end Don Warren's first reception, Buddy Hardeman's first carry and pass completion. Malone, with 59 yards, had his best day as a Redskin.