For four games, perhaps the biggest of the Redskins defensive problems was stopping the run.
Philadelphias LeSean McCoy rushed for 126 yards to trigger the start of a six-game losing streak. Buffalos Fred Jackson went for 120 two weeks later, followed by 107 yards for San Franciscos Frank Gore. Those three teams plus Carolina rushed for at least 138 yards.
It came to the point players were trying to not only do their assignment, but also a teammates job.
Whenever you try to do more than your job, thats when you mess up, defensive end Stephen Bowen said. Everybody was trying to do things to stop what was going on, but you cant do that thats when bad stuff starts happening.
The bad stuff continued throughout November, but the last three games, the run defense has returned to the form that had them ranked sixth through four games.
Against Miami, Dallas and Seattle, the Redskins have allowed only three rushes of 12 or more yards.
Watching the Seattle film, I was proud of the guys, because you watch 67 snaps and 57, 58 of the snaps, there are eight guys in the frame, guys diving on piles and Im thinking, Its not exactly perfect in everything we did, but it was unbelievable effort, defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said Thursday morning.
The Redskins still rank in the lower half of the NFL (18th), but they enter Sundays game against the New York Jets confident they corrected their previous mistakes.
So whats changed? The theories include being fundamentally better, the insertion of second-year linebacker Perry Riley and preventing the field-flipping run.
I think weve done a better job tackling, nose tackle Barry Cofield said. Were definitely eliminating the big plays, the long runs. The thing that has kept us from being a top five defense is giving up big plays here and there.
Even though Seattle finished with 124 yards rushing, it needed 30 attempts to do so, and 19 of those carries went for 4 yards of less.
Marshawn Lynch was running hard and dragging guys and getting chunks here and there, but the 8-yard run vs. a 30-yard run is a big difference, Cofield said.
During the first four games of the losing streak, the Redskins were beset by an inability to prevent the big play, allowing carries of 21, 27, 29, 31, 43 and two of 25 yards.
Haslett agreed with Bowens theory that players were pressing in effort to fix the results.
That happens, Haslett said. Everybody is trying to make every play, and obviously there will be breakdowns in what theyre doing. Theres a trust factor always on defense, and you have to trust that the guy beside you is going to do his job, you do your job and have great effort and run to the ball. If you do those things, everything will come together.
The Redskins know they have another tough chore with the Jets. New York coach Rex Ryan is committed to the running game, even though it ranks a disappointing 24th in the NFL. Shonn Green is averaging 4 yards per carry.
Its not a simple task, Cofield said. Their coach takes great pride in the running game. Hes a guy that loves to play a physical brand of football.
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