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Redskins' defense missed opportunities against Colts

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Recent posts by Eric Edholm

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Posted Oct. 18, 2010 @ 7:02 p.m. ET
By Eric Edholm

The Redskins followed a pattern Sunday that has been a recurring theme this season: give up a lot of yards but keep the game close. But the loss to the Colts took that formula to an extreme, and missed opportunities ultimately cost the Redskins a real chance to win, despite allowing 469 yards and nearly seven yards per play.

The PFW spin

Despite the massive leakage allowed by the Redskins' defense, they had been able to get by previously by allowing chunks of yards. But they can point directly to (at least) two missed interceptions, along with a few other defensive missteps, as the reason they could not come up with the victory on Sunday night.

CB Carlos Rogers had one easy interception that he dropped, and another he should have come up with. FS Kareem Moore appeared surprised when a Peyton Manning pass hit him in the numbers — another would-be interception that was missed. Those were two, or you could argue three, huge chances wasted against a quarterback who almost never gives up the ball that easily. Moore's failed interceptions were even more painful because the Colts took the ball down and scored a touchdown later in the drive.

The Redskins tried to confuse Manning with a defensive package that featured five or six defensive backs on the field at all times, and often with linebackers in favor of defensive linemen. It's one reason Albert Haynesworth was inactive, perhaps; Manning's two-minute drill is tough to defend and substitute against, so the Redskins favored having more pass-defending athletes on the field at the same time.

But the plan mostly backfired. The Colts ran the ball to the tune of 170 yards. Manning saw the "amoeba" defense the Redskins went to the well on — one or no defensive linemen, with almost all the defenders in the box standing up — and checked to the run. Coaches will tell you that players have less natural leverage in power situations when they are standing up. Rising from a three-point stance and staying low allows big defensive linemen to be anchors against the run. The Redskins gambled that their athletes could stop the run and that Manning would not go to it as often as he did. They lost that gamble.

The smaller personnel overwhelmed the Redskins at the point of attack. The Colts' maligned offensive linemen had to be licking their chops at the idea of going up against players 50, 60, 70 pounds their junior. Now, the strategy to go small in their dime package might have worked — if the defensive backs had made their interceptions. It's a classic example of one phase of the defense, along with coaching, letting down another.

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