Redskins' defense shows progress in loss

David Elfin, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

ASHBURN, Va. -- The sum of their parts equals a whole lot of trouble for the Washington Redskins, who dropped to 1-4 overall, 0-4 in the NFC and 0-2 in the NFC East with Sunday night's 31-16 loss at the Dallas Cowboys.
After surrendering an NFL-worst 1,762 yards though four games and an 80-yard touchdown drive on the opening possession, Washington's defense stiffened remarkably, holding the previously potent Cowboys to just 133 yards. One of Dallas' three remaining touchdowns came on a return while the others came after series that began at the Redskins' 3- and 15-yard lines.
Dallas, which had passed for 506 yards and five touchdowns the previous week against the unbeaten Denver Broncos, gained its fewest yards in 45 games dating to Week 9 of 2010 and the fewest allowed by the Redskins dating to Week 4 of 2011.
"We did a phenomenal job defensively, but still at the end, they prevailed," outside linebacker Brian Orakpo said.
Coach Mike Shanahan said, "It was the best game we played defensively."
However, Washington's offense, while generating a season-high 433 yards, faltered badly in the red zone, settling for field goals of 20, 32 and 33 yards by Kai Forbath. Quarterback Robert Griffin III ran for a season-high 77 yards on just nine carries but fumbled deep in his own territory, threw an interception when receiver Santana Moss fell down and completed fewer than half his passes for just the second time during his 20-game career.
"We're close on offense, but close doesn't do it," said Griffin, whose unit has been outscored 88-16 before halftime.
The Redskins were not close on special teams. They were atrocious. They allowed an 86-yard punt return touchdown and a 90-yard kickoff return that set up another score. Forbath, back from three games on the shelf with a groin injury, badly missed a 49-yard field goal attempt. They continued to produce nothing on returns and kept committing penalties, including one on Jerome Murphy that forced the re-kick that Dallas' Dwayne Harris took to the house. New special teams coach Keith Burns was flagged on the touchdown for impeding an official's progress.
"We found the enemy tonight," Darrel Young said. "It was us."
Niles Paul was less Pogo-ish in terming the effort "a meltdown, worst special teams performance I've been a part of."
All of this left Moss "disgusted," and Shanahan searching for answers.
"In order to win on the road, you have to play a complete game," said Shanahan, who came in with a virtually healthy roster but whose team was never even tied after the opening possession. "I thought we did some great things on defense. (But) any time you're 0-for-3 in the red zone, you (commit) a couple of turnovers to their one (and allow) a couple of big plays on special teams, you're not going to win. Had too many penalties as well (12 for 104 yards)."
Notes: Washington lost Bryan Kehl, its top special teams tackler, and long snapper Nick Sundberg to serious knee injuries. "Something popped," Kehl said. "It's something I have done a million times. (I was) just running down the field. I planted (and his knee buckled). It's tough. I tackled (Harris) on the 16-yard line on the first kickoff. I think I would've gotten him on the touchdown.". Kehl, who played in the final five games of 2012 after being signed to replace the injured Keenan Robinson, was re-signed in March after Pro Bowl special teams coverage standout Lorenzo Alexander signed with Arizona. ... Sundberg gutted out the second half of last year's opener after fracturing his left forearm before halftime but missed the next eight games. Center Will Montgomery took his place at Dallas.

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