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Consistency Still Eludes Redskins' Defense

Posted Dec 26, 2011

One step forward, one step back. After a near-dominant performance against the New York Giants in Week 15, the Redskins' defense struggled against the Minnesota Vikings, yielding 241 rushing yards in the 33-26 loss.


One step forward, one step back.

The Redskins’ defense was near-dominant in Week 15 against the New York Giants, recording three interceptions in a surprising 23-10 upset at MetLife Stadium.

A week later, the defense was gashed for 241 rushing yards and 389 total yards in a 33-26 loss to the struggling Minnesota Vikings at FedExField.

“It was disappointing because that wasn’t us out there,” linebacker Ryan Kerrigan said. “We feel like we have the capability to be one of the top defenses in the league, and to allow 241 rushing yards, no matter who it is to, is disappointing.

“If our offense can score more than 20 points, we need to take the responsibility as a defense to secure the win.”

The defense performed fairly well the first half of the game, limiting running back Adrian Peterson to 35 rushing yards on 11 carries and quarterback Christian Ponder to just 68 passing yards.

Peterson suffered a knee ligament injury and Ponder a concussion on consecutive plays early in the third quarter, and the defense struggled to adjust to replacements Toby Gerhart and Joe Webb.

Gerhart had a 67-yard run in the third quarter that set up a Vikings touchdown. He finished with 109 yards on just 11 carries in the game.

After the Redskins had taken a 20-17 lead later in the third quarter, the Vikings responded by driving 73 yards on just six plays. A wide receiver reverse to Percy Harvin resulted in a 31-yard run to push the Vikings into scoring range.

One play later, Webb tossed a perfectly thrown 17-yard pass to tight end Kyle Rudolph, who beat Perry Riley in coverage.

On the Vikings’ game-winning drive, the Vikings took advantage of a blitz by the Redskins, with Webb throwing a 36-yard pass to Harvin on 3rd-and-10.

Cornerback Josh Wilson had coverage on the play.

“It was an all-out blitz and he had the whole field to run,” Wilson said. “I tried to do my best. All the quarterback had to do was throw the ball up and I didn’t really have a chance.”

Two plays later, with the Vikings at the Redskins’ 8-yard line, Webb threw short to Harvin, who burst past tacklers along the right sideline and dove into the end zone for an 8-yard touchdown.

It appeared the Redskins’ defense had trouble adjusting to the physicality of the 6-0, 231-pound Gerhart and the mobility of Webb.

Webb, in particular, seemed to wear down the defense in the second half.

“It was really difficult, we had to stay on our coverage a lot longer because he can move around back there, and it made for a tough day,” Wilson said. “It’s definitely hard, especially when you’re prepared for Ponder and then Webb comes in. We had a game plan to stop Ponder and then Webb comes in and he’s a totally different quarterback.”

Said head coach Mike Shanahan: “I thought Webb came in and did some things well with the football – the counter options and keeping the ball alive, which wasn’t what they had been doing. He made some big time plays, made some big time throws and kept us off balance.”

Since Week 10, the Redskins’ defense had mostly excelled against the run, allowing just 3.6 yards per carry. They allowed 6.3 yards per carry against the Vikings

Defenders seemed to be on their heels against the Vikings, though.

Linebacker Lorenzo Alexander pointed to consistency as the primary issue.

“It has been one game here, one game there,” Alexander said. “We haven’t been able to put together three or four consecutive performances where we have been dominant. We have been very sporadic, and you can’t be a good team in the NFL if you are sporadic.”