Despite pulling out their first win last weekend, the Cincinnati Bengals know they need to be better defensively going forward.
Having lost two key defensive starters during their Week 2 defeat, the Washington Redskins also appear to have a tough challenge ahead of them.
In what could be a high-scoring affair, the Bengals and Redskins square off Sunday as Robert Griffin III makes his eagerly awaited FedEx Field debut.
After getting blown out 44-13 at Baltimore in its season opener, Cincinnati's defensive woes continued last Sunday in a 34-27 win over Cleveland. Andy Dalton threw for 318 yards and a career best-tying three touchdowns, but the Bengals (1-1) were outgained 439-375 in total offense.
"We got the win, but we weren't happy," cornerback Leon Hall said. "Getting the first of the year is big but like anything else, you want to play well individually and as a defense. Obviously you are happy but at the same time you realize things aren't as good as they seem coming off a win and that you've got a lot of room to improve."
Cincinnati has allowed an average of 434.5 yards to rank 30th in the league - a far cry from the 316.3 per game it surrendered in 2011. While losing Thomas Howard - last season's leading tackler - to a torn ACL suffered at practice last Thursday certainly hasn't helped, Cincinnati knows its defensive efforts aren't going to cut it.
"I know that we are a better defense than we've been showing," defensive lineman Domata Peko said. "I think we've just got to settle down. It seems like everybody's eyes have been too wide open, like a deer in the headlights."
The Bengals also placed backup defensive end Jamaal Anderson on injured reserve Tuesday after he tore a quad tendon in the win.
Unfortunately for the Redskins (1-1), they too were busy making roster changes Tuesday, placing two-time Pro Bowl linebacker Brian Orakpo and defensive end Adam Carriker on injured reserve. Orakpo tore the pectoral muscle near his left shoulder during last Sunday's 31-28 loss at St. Louis, while Carriker tore the quad tendon in his right knee.
"It's an opportunity for somebody else now," linebacker London Fletcher said. "We're a no-excuse football team."
Washington, which gave up 452 yards to the Rams, will use Rob Jackson and Chris Wilson to try and fill Orakpo's void. Jarvis Jenkins likely will start in place of Carriker.
"When somebody's injured, we shouldn't have a drop off," Jenkins told the Redskins' official website. "That's what everybody gets coached for, it's why everybody goes to training camp, it's why our defensive line coach coaches everybody the same, because once one guy goes down, somebody has to step up."
Washington will also try to stay more composed after an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty proved costly with the game on the line last weekend. Josh Morgan threw the ball at Rams cornerback Cortland Finnegan after a 7-yard catch on 3rd-and-8, leaving the Redskins with 4th-and-16 with just over one minute to go at St. Louis' 44. Billy Cundiff missed a potential game-tying 62-yard field goal on the next play.
"You can't lose your poise," coach Mike Shanahan said. "You lose your poise, obviously good things don't happen."
With Pierre Garcon (foot) sidelined, Griffin and Morgan connected five times for 50 yards. Griffin completed 20 of 29 passes for 206 yards with a touchdown and an interception, and added another 82 yards and two more scores on the ground.
"I didn't make enough plays to help the team, and that's the bottom line," he said. "You're judged on wins and losses and we lost the game, so I didn't play well enough."
Garcon, who hauled in four receptions for 109 yards and a touchdown in Week 1, has been limited in practice this week and appears likely to sit out again.
While things haven't exactly gone their way, Washington and Cincinnati may be getting some help. Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather (knee) and Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap (knee) could make their season debuts Sunday.
Cincinnati has taken the last two matchups in this series, most recently winning 20-13 on Dec. 14, 2008.
While Washington dropped its final six home games last season, it has won five straight home openers.