Time is not an ally in linebacker London Fletcher’s bid to win another Super Bowl before his distinguished career ends. Fletcher’s elevated production has underscored an understanding that winning now must be the priority for the Washington Redskins.
Which is why results such as Sunday’s 19-11 loss to the San Francisco 49ers at FedEx Field are especially maddening. Fletcher and his defensive mates limited the team with the second-best record in the NFC to a touchdown below its scoring average. Yet the unit spoke about having to do even better.
Such is the circumstance when the offense, under the direction of quarterback John Beck and with backups at almost every position, can’t get out of its own way. While the defense was keeping elite players such as running back Frank Gore and tight end Vernon Davis out of the end zone, the offense couldn’t score a touchdown until the final minutes.
“Anytime you lose a football game, you’re going to be extremely frustrated,” Fletcher said. “As defensive players, we look at it really as, ‘What can we do individually to help us win ballgames?’ At no point in time will we start pointing fingers.”
Fletcher, 36, couldn’t have contributed much more than he has over the past few games. One week ago, a sore hamstring threatened to keep him on the sideline, but the two-time Pro Bowl selection toughed it out in a 23-0 loss to Buffalo, amassing 20 tackles.
Against San Francisco, Fletcher finished with 10 tackles, second most on the Redskins and third most in the game.
Fletcher again thrived as the centerpiece of a defense that limited the 49ers to three for 12 on third down, and although San Francisco operated crisply between the 20-yard lines, Washington stiffened at a handful of crucial moments to force field goal attempts. Twice the 49ers moved inside the 20, including once to the Redskins’ 3-yard line, but had to settle for David Akers field goals both times.
Washington did surrender a 30-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Alex Smith to fullback Bruce Miller that made it 13-0 1 minute 3 seconds before halftime. And Gore became the first 49ers player to rush for at least 100 yards in five consecutive games.
But skilled playmakers such as Davis and wide receivers Braylon Edwards and Michael Crabtree were almost non-factors.
“It’s our job to defend no matter how long we’re on the field,” safety LaRon Landry said. “I love being out there no matter what happens. I love to make the game change, and that’s what we’ve got to do. That’s our job. That’s what we play for, to defend.”
Landry was part of the Redskins’ only forced turnover of the game. With San Francisco at the Redskins’ 45, Smith completed a four-yard pass to Davis, who was trying for additional yards. Cornerback DeAngelo Hall ripped the ball loose, and Landry fell on it at his 44.
With a short field, 6:41 to play and a 16-point deficit, the Redskins’ offense sputtered again. The possession ended on downs when Beck threw three straight incomplete passes, and the defense trotted back onto the field after another short rest.
“You could see the mind-set there, our front seven, front eight guys playing extremely hard,” Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan said.
“We came up with a turnover when we had to. You could see there was a lot of great effort out there. That’s what you’re looking for, guys playing extremely hard to give you a chance to win, put you in a position to win. I thought our defense did that today.”
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