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Jim Haslett dislikes ‘bend but don’t break’ description of defense

Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett and the Redskins continue to mix up their schemes while searching for solutions.

The Washington Redskins’ defense continued its habit of giving up acres of real estate last Sunday, allowing the Minnesota Vikings to gain a total of 421 yards. At the same time, the Redskins forced the Vikings into field goals on three of their trips into the end zone, and intercepted them on another. Overall, Washington forced three turnovers and scored its  fourth defensive touchdown of the year.

“Bend but don’t break,” is a description that several players used to describe their performance in the 38-26 victory. But defensive coordinator Jim Haslett dislikes the phrase. Although pleased with the turnovers, touchdown and stingy red zone effort, Haslett says his unit has to do a better job of getting off the field.

“I don’t like [bend but don’t break], because we blitzed like five times a row in the fourth quarter. I wouldn’t say it’s ‘bend but don’t break’ if you’re blitzing,” Haslett said Thursday. “Last week, we had a nice lead and we didn’t want to give it up and we kind of played conservative along the way, trying to eat up time on the clock. I don’t think we’re bend but don’t break. I wouldn’t use those terms.”

A week after playing 85 snaps against Atlanta, the Redskins defense was on the field for 87 plays against Minnesota. Haslett blamed the big snap count on continued ineffectiveness on third downs. Washington has allowed opponents to convert 41 percent of their third downs for first downs. The Vikings made good on eight of 17 attempts.

“That’s too many plays. It’s our own fault because all of a sudden, we have a nice third-and-10 last week, and they convert because we don’t tackle,” Haslett said. “So, if we can do a better job of that, obviously, we won’t get as many plays and won’t give as many yards or as many points. As a defense, we’ve got to do better in that area.”

Haslett also said the Redskins have to do a better job tackling, particularly late in games. The Redskins went to a more conservative approach after the offense took a big  second-half lead. Haslett said he wasn’t as bothered by the Vikings gaining yards on the ground or through the air, because he wanted Minnesota to chew up chunks of clock.

But the Redskins allowed the Vikings to get out of bounds at the end of those runs and catches, stopping the clock — exactly what Haslett didn’t want. That left the Vikings plenty of time to stage a comeback.

“We were trying to play it safe. We didn’t want to give up any big [plays],” Haslett said. “We were up by 2-1/2, three scores, so we were just playing coverage and trying to eat up time. We were actually trying to keep them in bounds, but we obviously didn’t do a very good job of that. We’re going to do a drill today.”