- The Washington Times - Monday, October 17, 2005

When the Washington Redskins were playing top-shelf defense in 2004, they waited all year for the offense to produce. Now that the offense has a quarterback and a receiver in the NFL’s top 10, the defense has gone back.

“Last year the media and the fans kept saying if the offense gave us some points …” safety Ryan Clark said. “Well, the offense is doing its job. We’ve got to find a way to pick it up.”

After shutting down hapless Chicago in the opener — the Bears’ only points came after a special-teams mistake gave them the ball on Washington’s 23-yard line — the defense has been torched for big plays or yielded long drives in each game.

“Overall, we’re playing very tough, sound, rock-‘em, sock-‘em defense, but big plays have been our problem,” said coach Joe Gibbs, whose team is fifth overall and eighth in points allowed after ranking third and fifth in these categories a year ago. “How do you eliminate the big plays? Scrambling to the football, getting to the football is a big part of that.”

Washington hasn’t scrambled well enough to prevent four touchdowns of at least 34 yards compared to just two in all of 2004.

• Wideout Terry Glenn got behind cornerback Shawn Springs and safety Sean Taylor on a 70-yard flea flicker to score in Dallas.

• Seattle marched 85 and 91 yards to force overtime — two of the three 80-yard scoring drives Washington has allowed compared to just five in all of 2004.

• Denver running back Tatum Bell burst outside for touchdown runs of 55 and 34 yards in the Redskins first defeat.

• And Sunday in Kansas City, the Redskins they gave up that third 80-yard drive and were burned by Priest Holmes on a 60-yard screen pass for the winning touchdown in the fourth quarter of the 28-21 loss after bottling up the Pro Bowl running back on the ground (18 yards on 14 carries) and making All-Pro tight end Tony Gonzalez a non-factor (two catches, 13 yards).

“We’re maybe two plays away from being 5-0, one in Denver and one yesterday,” middle linebacker Lemar Marshall said. “If everybody’s not on the same page, [a defense can be too aggressive], but generally that’s not us. Everybody usually has a lane and is pursuing to the ball. In Denver, it was a couple of missed tackles. [On Sunday] it was more overpursuing, guys taking bad lanes.”

The Seahawks, Broncos and Chiefs traditionally have been among the NFL’s more high-powered offenses, but the Redskins managed to limit the big plays against the likes of Green Bay, Minnesota, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh last year.

“Last year offenses used to come in and do what they do every week against us,” Clark said. “We dictated to offenses. They’ve gotten smarter and run some plays against us that were good calls, like that screen to Priest. We’re not perfect. We’re human. [But] we’ve got to stop the bleeding.”

And end Renaldo Wynn insists the cure is within reach.

“You can’t have the type of mistakes we had against the offensive-caliber teams we’ve played because they’re going to take advantage of them,” Wynn said. “We’ve got to make tackles. [But] I have no doubt that we’re going to get back on track.”

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