Redskins-Falcons preview: Spotlight on Skins' defense

Redskins-Falcons preview: Spotlight on Skins' defense
October 5, 2012, 1:31 pm
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What:Falcons (4-0) vs. Redskins (2-2)
Where:FedEx Field, Landover, Md.
When:Sunday, 1 p.m.
TV:Fox WTTG-5
Redskins Kickoff and Postgame Live:Comcast SportsNet noon and 4.In the first four games, the biggest storyline for the Redskins has been the sublime play of rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III and his impact on the teams resurgent offense.Not this Sunday, though.The Redskins struggling defense will be the focal point against Matt Ryan and the high-flying Falcons, one of only two undefeated teams remaining (the Texans are also 4-0).For Washington to have any chance against an Atlanta offense thats racking up 31 points per contest and ending a seven-game home losing streak they must pressure Ryan and slow down a versatile repertoire of weapons that includes standout wide receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones, tight end Tony Gonzalez and running back Michael Turner.If that sounds like a lot, well, it is.I think every weeks a statement game, defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said. This is a great football team were playing. Theyve got the hottest quarterback in the league, a really good running back and two good receivers and theyve got maybe the greatest all-time tight end that ever played. So its a great challenge for us.Although the Redskins have been adept at stopping the run theyre 10th the units struggles against the pass and propensity for yielding big plays they might be in for a long afternoon. Consider:They rank last in passing touchdowns against (11), 31stin passing yards against (1,305) and 30thin yards per attempt (8.8). (Ryan leads the league in passer rating and ranks second in passing touchdowns with 11.)The Redskins have yielded pass receptions of 30 yards or longer nine times, including second half completions of 65 and 54 yards last week in Tampa. Both of those backbreaking miscues led to Buccaneers touchdowns and, making matters worse, came against the teams best cover corners, DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson.Defensive end Stephen Bowen acknowledged that the Redskins front-7 must help out the backend by forcing Ryan to make hurried decisions. We have to get there, Bowen said. Weve been working on a pass-rush skills this week. I know Im going to the best I can to get one sack on the board --finally.For three weeks now, the secondary has talked about playing tighter coverage and eliminating the long receptions that have plagued them.Now would be a good time for that to start happening.In addition to keeping an eye the secondarys performance, here are some other areas the crew atcsn.washington.comwill be monitoring:Ground superiorityThe troubling news for the Redskins is they have yielded 123 points. The encouraging news is they have scored 123, as well.In order to move the ball and produce points against the Falcons, the NFLs second best rushing offense (Washington is averaging 171 yards per game) needs to follow a simple formula: run the ball, then run it some more.The Falcons are allowing only 19 points per game, but their run defense has been shaky, permitting 146.3 yards per game (29th).Last week, Carolina quarterback Cam Newton gained 86 yards on nine rushes against Atlanta. The Redskins, meantime, boast a pair of the NFLs top rushers in Griffin and Alfred Morris and, as a team, are tied for the most 10-plus yard runs (23). Its also possible Ryan Grant will make his debut for the home team.No excuses2) Kicker Billy Cundiff preserved his job last week by making a 41-yard field goal in the final seconds against the Buccaneers. But misses from 41, 31 and 57 earlier in the game means his margin for error against the Falcons is negligible.Cundiff, snapper Justin Snow and holder Sav Rocca have had another full week to work out any kinks in the field goal operation. So there will be no excuses Sunday.Strength against strengthAtlantas pass defense has been significantly stronger than its run defense. In fact, the unit is tied for the seventh fewest passing yards against per game (207).The Redskins air attack, meantime, ranks among the leagues most formidable. Griffin is tied with Ryan for the second best completion rate in the game (69.4) and has thrown only one interception.Washingtons receivers, meantime, rank second in the NFL in yards after the catch with 625, an effort led by Pierre Garon and Fred Davis.Somethings got to give.