After Further Review: Redskins' 2009 Defense Returns

After Further Review: Redskins' 2009 Defense Returns
November 29, 2010, 5:59 pm
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Monday, November 29, 2010 1:00 PM

By Rich Tandler
Redskins Blogger

A recurring theme during chats, Twitter conversations and blog comments is that the Redskins would have been much better off is they would have left the 2009 Washington Redskins defense alone. That group was ranked 10th in the NFL in terms of yardage and many fans long for the days of that 4-3 scheme as opposed to the 3-4 unit that has spent most of the year at or near the bottom of the NFLs yardage heap. Those who liked the 2009 defense must have loved Sundays game against the Vikings. Its as though they found a Hot Tub Time Machine and transported that 09 unit to FedEx Field. Lets go down the checklist: Stingy with yards? Check. The Vikings gained just 299 yards of total offense. That represents their best performance of the year in that regard and it is more than 100 yards better than their 2010 average. If the Redskins had given up 299 yards a game all year long they would rank fourth in the NFL. Greg Blache would be proud. No takeaways? Check. The Vikings came into the game with a turnover ratio of minus-13. They left Landover with a ratio of minus-12 thanks to intercepting one Donovan McNabb pass and the Redskins defense not getting a single takeaway. Bret Favre had been an interception machine (17 picks) but the Redskins couldnt manage so much as a Carlos Rogers drop of one of his passes. Washington forced zero fumbles. The 09 Redskins, of course, had a near-historical aversion to takeaways, getting only 17 in 16 games. They failed to get a takeaway in four games. Sundays game had the same feel as one of those games. Some sacks but no consistent pass pressure? Check. The Redskins got two sacks of Favre and they averaged 2.5 a game in 2009. But rarely was Favre hit after releasing the ball and he rarely was even made uncomfortable in the pocket. That was the modus operandi in 2009. You could take pictures of the Redskins pass pressure on Sunday, drop them into a 2009 highlight reel, and nobody would ever know the difference. Allow a late, clock-killing drive? Check. Last year when the Carolina Panthers needed a first down to be able to retain possession late in the game and assume victory formation against the Redskins, old, slow quarterback Jake Delhomme ran a bootleg and got the first down. On Sunday, older, slower quarterback Favre did the same thing. Just like they did in losses to Detroit, New Orleans, Philadelphia, and Dallas last year, the Redskins defense couldnt get off of the field at the end of the game when a stop would either have won the game or would have given the offense one more shot to tie or win the game. Lose game? Check. The point here is not that the 2010 version of the Redskins is vastly superior to the 09 unit. They both have their strong points and their weaknesses. The point is that the problem with the Redskins last year wasnt their defense and it isnt the problem this year. If you give up 17 points, and three of them come after a turnover gives the other team a first and goal at the nine, your team should win the game. The Redskins need to score more points if they are going to become a consistent winner. Since 2000, they are the second-worst scoring team in the NFL. Only the Cleveland Browns have scored fewer points and they were a second-year expansion team in 2000 (Houston has scored fewer points than either team overall but the Texans didnt come into the league until 2002). It can be said that, unlike the 09 defense, this defense has scored some touchdowns and those has directly led to two of the teams five wins, the games against Dallas and at Chicago. Still, its the job of the offense to score points. And the 18.2 points per game that the Redskins have scored since 2000, or even the 19.5 per game they have posted this year, will not get it done. So, by all means, lets continue to debate the merits of the 3-4 and the 4-3, Greg Blache vs. Jim Haslett. Thats great, its fun. But until the Redskins build an offense that can put up three touchdowns and a field goal on a consistent, week in, week out basis it will be a dry, academic debate as opposed to one that actually is relevant when it comes to winning and losing games. Redskins were in no rush It didnt seem like the Redskins were even trying to get much of a running game going yesterday. A look back at the numbers reveals that Washington abandoned the run against the Vikings to a historical extent. They had 13 rushing attempts on Sunday. Thats the second-lowest total rush attempts that the team has had in a game since 1960. The Redskins had 12 rushing attempts in four different games in that time period and Sunday was the fifth time that the Redskins had 13. But it goes deeper than that. On Sunday, two of the carries were by Brandon Banks from the Wildcat formation and two of them were Donovan McNabb scrambles. Two running backs had rushing attemptsJames Davis, who had six, and Keiland Williams with three. The nine carries by running backs represents the lowest total for the Redskins since 1960. It occurred one other time, on October 10, 2005 when the Giants thumped the Redskins 36-0. The fewest rushing attempts the Redskins have had in a win since 1960 is 17 in a 24-20 victory over the Chargers on December 6, 1998. In the past 50 years, the Redskins had fewer than 20 rushing attempts in 88 games and their record in those games is 6-81-1. In a good number of those games, of course, there is some mixing up of cause and effect. In the 36-0 loss to the Giants cited above, for example, the Redskins fell behind early and had to pass on almost every play to attempt to catch up. But that was not the case yesterday. Minnesota had a double-digit lead just once and that only lasted for a few minutes. They didnt run because they couldnt run. That doesnt speak to the game situation. Thats all about having an offensive line that isnt playing very well and two inexperienced running backs. You can reach Rich by email at and follow him on Twitter @RealRedskins. Join Rich Tandler for an in-game chat during the Redskins-Giants game on Sunday. Things will get underway on shortly before kickoff and continue all game long.