Fan who caught Orakpo's interception shares his story
The Redskins’ defense ranks 30th in points allowed, yielding an average of 30.7 per contest. But the unit does sit atop the league in another key statistic: touchdowns.
Through six games, the Redskins have scored four touchdowns on defense, equaling the Bears and Chiefs for the most by any unit this season. (All three teams have returned three interceptions for a score and taken a fumble back for a touchdown.)
The Redskins' four defensive touchdowns have already equaled last season’s 16-game total. And with one against Peyton Manning and the Broncos on Sunday, they would have five in a season for the first time since 1994.
“If you do that as a football team, usually good things happen,” Coach Mike Shanahan said this week. “So hopefully by the end of the year we’re in a category where we can say that we’re one of the top teams in turnovers. And, if [we are], it relates to wins and losses.”
In both of the Redskins’ victories this season, the defensive touchdowns came at critical moments and shifted the game’s momentum. In Oakland, the Raiders were ahead 14-3 early and threatening to run away with the game when rookie cornerback David Amerson, a noted ball hawk during his team tenure at North Carolina State, picked off Matt Flynn and returned the ball 45 yards for a score. The Raiders did not threaten again.
Amerson said parlaying turnovers into points is something Washington’s defensive players and coaches constantly discuss in meeting rooms and on the practice field.
“Every time we get a turnover in practice, everyone yells, ‘Score! Score!” he said. “We emphasize that a lot and we try transfer that to the game.”
Cornerback DeAngelo Hall has returned a fumble and an interception for a score. He’s the only player in the league with one of each.
“Any time you get a turnover it’s important,” Amerson continued. “But when you get in the end zone, too, that’s a big plus. The game last week [against the Bears] was decided by four points. That could have been the play that pretty much won the game for us. Anytime you get the ball in your hands, you want to turn it into a touchdown.”
Amerson, of course, was referring to Brian Orakpo’s first career interception. With the score knotted at 10 in the second quarter, Orakpo corralled a batted Jay Cutler pass and returned it 29 yards for a touchdown.
“It’s huge, that’s why we always emphasize turnovers,” Orakpo said. “We’ve done a good job so far but we got to keep it up, continue creating stuff, not just sacks but going for the ball, too. Picking balls up in the air. First man hitting the guy, the second guy trying to strip it and pop it in the air. Stuff like that. We’ve always preached about it since [Jim] Haslett has been here—getting takeaways, turnovers and scoring off it. We practice it and try carry that to Sunday.”