Big plays allowed by defense prove to be downfall
A Redskins defense that knew it needed to quit giving up big plays spotted the wrinkle on the opening play. It wasn't hard to miss: Receiver Mohamed Sanu lined up in Wildcat formation. So safety Madieu Williams crept up. No defender was more than seven yards from the ball, and the defense braced for a run.
Instead, it turned into a chase. And the Redskins couldn't catch A.J. Green, who hauled in a 73-yard touchdown pass, setting the tone and ruining the home opener. In the Redskins' 38-31 loss to Cincinnati (2-1) at FedEx Field on Sunday, big plays allowed by the defense continued to be an issue, just like they were in the first two games.
"I thought the defense was going to be the strength of our team," Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said.
Instead, it has become a glaring weakness. The Redskins have allowed at least 300 yards passing in each of the first three games. They allowed seven pass plays of at least 20 yards Sunday; they now have allowed 16 such gains this season. That puts them on pace for 85; they gave up 58 in 2011.
Any way the numbers are added it equals trouble for Washington (1-2). The Redskins finally have an offense capable of scoring. They have scored at least 28 points in three straight games and are 1-2. A 31-point game would have been good enough to win a combined 23 games the past two years.
"We're way better than this," Redskins cornerback Josh Wilson said.
Maybe. But they're not playing like it. And it can't be blamed on injuries to starters Adam Carriker and Brian Orakpo. Linebacker Rob Jackson made a diving interception in the end zone for a touchdown and had three tackles for a loss in place of Orakpo. Jarvis Jenkins and Kedric Golston played well enough at end.
Rather, it was a secondary that wasn't helped enough by the pass rush or by its coverage. Three plays hurt most of all.
On the first, safety DeJon Gomes was beaten badly on the opening play. Linebacker London Fletcher waved up Williams, leaving Gomes in solo coverage on Green. That's a no-win situation for Gomes, who should have backed up more on the play. Green made an easy 73-yard catch, grabbing the ball at the Washington 30-yard line and scoring untouched.
"We saw the middle of the field was wide open," Green said. "Once I was by him I saw I was wide open."
The second came with 3:28 left in the first quarter when the Redskins opted for a cover zero look and blitzed seven. The aggressive call left Wilson one-on-one with Armon Binns. As Binns cut outside, Wilson, who was taking away the inside, stumbled on his break. Binns caught the ball at the 39-yard line and scored untouched for a 14-7 lead.
"It's a tough route," Wilson said.
Speedy slot receiver Andrew Hawkins did the final damage on the third play. Backup cornerback Richard Crawford, playing for injured third cornerback Cedric Griffin, fell for a subtle double move by Hawkins. It was enough to keep Crawford flat-footed as Hawkins took a quick step to the outside as he approached Crawford. With both safeties sprinting to either boundary, Crawford was left with no help. He needed plenty of it as Hawkins caught a pass over the top and scored easily for a 38-24 lead.
"It's a learning experience," Crawford said. "It happens. I apologize to my teammates. The game's kind of on me. It's my fault."