One bad play ruins pretty good day for defense

One bad play ruins pretty good day for defense
October 23, 2012, 11:45 am
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RG3: DC is definitely a football town

Defense

Grade vs. Giants: C-

Comment: For a little more than 58 minutes, the Redskins’ defense appeared to be well on its way to an impressive performance against one of the league’s elite offenses. 

At the two minute warning, linebacker Perry Riley (team-high eight tackles) and his teammates had limited the Giants to 64 rushing yards on 19 carries (3.4 yards per). New York quarterback Eli Manning, meantime, had been picked off twice and thrown for only 252 yards, despite facing little sustained pressure from the Redskins’ pass rushers.

Games in the NFL are 60 minutes, however, and a critical breakdown in the waning moments saw a potentially good day suddenly turn bad. Really bad.

The Redskins were clinging to a 23-20 edge in the final minutes when Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz lined up in the slot. But instead of breaking off his route, he opted to run a “go” and sprinted right between defensive backs Josh Wilson and Madieu Williams before hauling in a 77-yard touchdown pass that sealed New York’s 27-23 victory.

Whether it was miscommunication between Wilson and Williams (Wilson appeared to be anticipating more help from Williams), improper alignment or simply Cruz’s flat out foot speed, big plays inside 90 seconds ... while protecting a lead ... on the road ... with first place in the division on the line ... simply can’t happen.

Giants Coach Tom Coughlin explained afterward that Cruz made an astute adjustment on the fly. “There was an option there and he took it,” Coughlin said of Cruz’s choice of routes. “That’s what I can tell you.”

On Monday, Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan summed up the defense’s performance succinctly.

“We hit Eli a number of times during that game; he normally hasn’t been hit that many times,” Shanahan said. “Then all of a sudden, you do give up that big play, it takes away all the good things that we did on defense. Instead of allowing [252] yards passing, you’ve got [329].”

Indeed, the statistics don’t lie. And the rankings put the Redskins last in passing yards allowed (2,299) and tied for last in passing touchdowns yielded (16).

Until the secondary gets sorted out, the Redskins will continue to struggle.