DENVER — For a brief moment on Sunday afternoon, DeAngelo Hall had put the Washington Redskins in line for a stunning upset of the Denver Broncos.
His 26-yard interception return for a touchdown early in the third quarter put the Redskins ahead 21-7 and stunned the crowd at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. But they were the last points Washington would score in a 45-21 loss.
It's hard to pin too much of Denver's explosive final 23 minutes on Hall and the defense. For much of the game, it had given their team a legitimate chance to win. Hall's interception of quarterback Peyton Manning came at 11:34 of the third quarter. He stepped in front of a Manning throw to the right sideline and raced into the end zone.
It was Hall's second career interception of Manning and his second defensive touchdown of the season. That's the first time he's done that in an 11-year career. He also moved into the Top 10 in franchise history with 21 interceptions.
Starting safeties sidelined
The Redskins were without starting strong safety Reed Doughty on Sunday. He was still suffering from the effects of a concussion sustained last weekend against the Chicago Bears and did not even make the trip to Denver.
The absence of Doughty meant both of Washington's starting safeties were out. Brandon Meriweather was suspended one game by the NFL for two illegal hits against Chicago last week.
That left a host of inexperience at the position. The active safeties included Jose Gumbs, primarily a special teams player, rookie Bacarri Rambo, inactive the last three weeks, and Trenton Robinson, cut by Philadelphia on Oct. 8 and signed last week by Washington.
Jordan Pugh, who made the Redskins out of training camp, was cut to make room for Robinson. But he was brought back this week once it was clear Meriweather would be punished.
Gumbs started at strong safety with reserve corner E.J. Biggers at free safety.
"We all know their scheme, we all know the defense," Biggers said. "Whatever we need to plug in, everybody's going to be ready at all time."
Rambo, a sixth-round draft choice this spring, was inactive the previous three games. He'd originally been listed as the starter before giving way to Biggers. But Gumbs left the field late in the first quarter with Rambo taking over his spot. Gumbs appeared to favor his left leg. He remained in on special teams.
Morgan breaks out on return
Special teams has been an issue all season for the Redskins. One of the biggest problems? A complete lack of playmaking from any of the kick or punt returners. Josh Morgan received another chance on Sunday and produced the biggest return of the season for Washington.
Early in the second quarter, Morgan fielded a Britton Colquitt punt at the 6 and appeared in serious trouble with Broncos bearing down on him. But Morgan, who has shown little elusiveness during his brief time as a punt returner this season, avoided several tacklers, shook off a few more and then hit a seam along the left sideline.
By the time he was done, Morgan had a 34-yard return. And while the Redskins didn't take advantage on the ensuing offensive drive, it was a boost. Their previous best return was just 11 yards.
Davis inactive, deadline looms
Tight end Fred Davis was inactive for the second consecutive week.
Davis sat amid rumors that he wants to be dealt before the NFL trade deadline Tuesday. Davis denied that in a radio interview last Tuesday with WJFK-FM (106.7 The Fan).
But he also said that a change of scenery might be necessary if he isn't in the team's plans.
Last season, Davis appeared in seven games before sustaining a season-ending tear of his left Achilles tendon Oct. 21 in a game against the New York Giants.
He was second on the Redskins with 796 receiving yards in 2011 and had 59 catches and three touchdowns. But Davis missed the final four games of that season for a violation of the NFL's substance abuse policy.
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