Montae Nicholson had an open-field shot at Denver Broncos running back Royce Freeman, but got run over as the last line of defense on a 24-yard touchdown run.
Troy Apke had a clean path to Emmanuel Sanders, but stopped his feet and was shrugged off as the Denver wide receiver finished off a 27-yard touchdown run.
Fabian Moreau and Quinton Dunbar were both turned around in coverage on big completions.
Poor tackling, bad angles and a suspect pass defense were on display in the Washington Redskins’ 29-17 loss to the Broncos on Friday at FedEx Field. If the third preseason game was a dress rehearsal for the first-team defense, then the Redskins have some work to do before the big show kicks off in Arizona on Sept. 9.
“Only positive I take away is it’s the preseason where it doesn’t count,” defensive lineman Jonathan Allen said. “Just have to learn and have to build from it. We definitely didn’t practice up to our standard the last couple days and it kind of showed out there. It was a good wake-up call. You don’t have to take an actual loss in the regular season for it to register.
“It just shows we’ve got a lot of room to improve, which is good. It keeps us on our toes. Having success is a double-edged sword. You want it, but at the same time it dulls your blade a little bit. This is good for us. We’re going to grow from it. We looked terrible out there today, especially the starting defense.”
The Broncos had their way against Washington’s first-team unit early on, and took a 17-3 lead into halftime after starting quarterback Case Keenum completed 12 of 18 passes for 148 yards.
He spread the ball around to six different receivers in the first half, but Sanders did the most damage with four catches for 61 yards in addition to his rushing score.
The Redskins kept things fairly basic in terms of their scheme, but the poor tackling was a concern. Sanders’s touchdown run came on an end around that had nearly every defender going left before the wide receiver took the ball in the opposite direction. The front seven was erased on Freeman’s touchdown, allowing the rookie runner a sizable hole and leaving the secondary scrambling.
Chunk plays were an issue, as the two touchdown runs accounted for 61 of the Broncos’ 67 first-half rushing yards. Keenum connected on passes of 33, 27, 18 and 13 yards in the first 30 minutes.
“I don’t think nothing was different,” Redskins rookie defensive tackle Daron Payne said. “Just go out there next week with a better mentality and just get after it.
“There’s definitely some stuff we can improve on. Just go in and use this film and try to work at it and get better. It’s definitely a wake-up for us knowing we can play harder and clean up a whole bunch.”
There were some strong individual moments by the defense. Anthony Lanier bullied his way through an offensive lineman for a second-quarter sack. Rookie Tim Settle knocked a pass down at the line of scrimmage. Nicholson forced a fumble. But those moments were rare, and the Redskins failed to come away with a turnover.
The team has one final preseason game against the Ravens before the regular season starts, although starters typically play sparingly in the fourth exhibition game.