Defensive end Jonathan Allen sped through the Miami Dolphins’ offensive line with relative ease as he dove and wrapped his arms around Josh Rosen to send the second-year quarterback crashing to the ground.
It was 3rd-and-6 on the Dolphins’ 35-yard line, and the Redskins were putting some extra pressure on Rosen. Linebacker Cole Holcomb came off the defense’s right edge, forcing the center to attempt to block him, while Allen blitzed the left-side A-gap.
The play worked almost perfectly, and Allen stretched out his arms in celebration of the defense’s first sack of the game and his second of the year.
It would have been rare for the defense to get that kind of production two weeks ago. Now, it’s become the standard.
“We’ve been playing good ball, but it will be a quarter here, a quarter there,” said cornerback Quinton Dunbar. “We have shown flashes of being good. We just have to continue to be consistent. That pretty much took over.”
The defense, which had only five sacks until two weeks ago, had five in one game against Miami and held the opposing offense to 271 yards and 16 points – their best performance all year. The unit also intercepted Rosen twice.
“We’re just trying to do our job and do it at a high level,” Allen said. “No more, no less.”
As a whole, the Redskins have been notorious for failing to put together a full game this year. The first halves of games have been particularly good; they held the Philadelphia Eagles to seven points, the Dallas Cowboys 14 and the New England Patriots to 12.
Any positive momentum evaporated in the second half, though. The Redskins have allowed 86 points in the final two quarters of games, which accounts for 51% of their total allowed points through six games.
But the defense might have had a breakthrough in the last two games. Although Patriots quarterback Tom Brady threw for 348 yards and three touchdowns in a 33-7 win over Washington, he was also sacked four times, which was a first since 2017. The Patriots only led, 12-7, at halftime.
The defense couldn’t keep that momentum going against the Patriots, but the Dolphins game was a different story for the most part. Prior to Ryan Fitzpatrick replacing Rosen in the fourth quarter, the Dolphins managed three points over the first three quarters.
Allen couldn’t pinpoint why the pass rush has suddenly erupted with nine sacks in two games, but he did say it’s clear it has momentum right now.
“Getting to the quarterback comes in waves,” Allen said. “So you can’t judge a performance based on sacks because there’s way more that goes into it than the five plays out of the 65 that are in a game.”
Still, interim head coach Bill Callahan liked what he saw.
“I wanted to be more focused, I wanted more energy,” Callahan said. “The players, I thought, really responded well in the second half. We had a couple of drives where we let down on both sides. Overall, we tried to gather that momentum, tried to hand in there the best we could when it got tough.”
The Redskins had their way with Rosen, who finished 15 of 25 for 85 yards, but things became more complicated once Fitzpatrick entered the game at the start of the fourth quarter. Fitzpatrick’s first drive was nine plays and 55 yards, resulting in a score that made the score 17-10.
Fitzpatrick finished the game 12 of 18 for 132 yards, which didn’t surprise the Redskins.
Check out photos of the Washington Redskins during their regular season Week 6 game against the Miami Dolphins.
“We knew he is a gunslinger and he is going to try to move the ball and he is going to throw,” said Redskins safety Landon Collins. “He’s not going to be afraid to throw it. We knew that was going to happen.”
With six seconds left to play, Fitzpatrick found DeVante Parker in the end zone to put the Dolphins a two-point conversion away from winning the game. However, running back Kenyan Drake dropped the screen pass on the conversion attempt, essentially ending the game. Even if Drake did make the catch, it was clear the Redskins had the play covered with at least four players around the ball.
“We just tried to make a play,” Collins said. “Play sound, play your technique and do your job.”
Regardless of the score, it’s clear the defense has been playing improved football. But don’t expect the unit to celebrate with 10 more games left in the season.
“I’m not jumping for joy,” Allen said. “We won. We were supposed to win.”