- The Washington Times - Friday, September 19, 2008

While most of the focus has been on the lows (Week 1) and the highs (Week 2) of Washington’s offense this season, the Redskins‘ defense has been more consistent. Make that consistently better in the second half.

“We see what we’re having a little trouble with, what they’re beating us on or what the coaches upstairs see that [the opponents] are trying to get back to,” cornerback Carlos Rogers said. “That Giants game, we were upset and kind of embarrassed at halftime. It was the first game of the season, an NFC East game, and we didn’t play a good first half.”

New York amassed 241 yards and 16 points in the first 30 minutes. But the Redskins shut out the defending Super Bowl champions after halftime.

On Sunday, the defense limited the high-octane New Orleans Saints to seven points on their five second-half series, allowing the offense to rally for a 29-24 victory. What’s more, that touchdown came on the first possession after halftime. The Saints had three first downs and 58 yards on their four drives the rest of the way.

“We come in at halftime, and the coaches really emphasize where we made our mistakes,” said middle linebacker London Fletcher, who leads the Redskins with 24 tackles. “It’s not like we’re changing a lot of things. We’re just executing them better in the second half. We’re doing a great job of making those adjustments.”

That’s a radical change from last season, when the Redskins allowed 116 points in the fourth quarter alone, more than they did in the entire first half. All told, the 2007 Redskins surrendered 90 more points after halftime than before the break.

The Arizona Cardinals, who visit Landover again Sunday, scored six points in the first three quarters against Washington last season. They added 13 in the fourth but lost 21-19. Arizona lost command of the game after a fourth-quarter fumble at the Washington 10, a missed two-point conversion and a last-second 55-yard field goal that sailed wide.

“No question we were hanging on,” defensive coordinator Greg Blache said. “They had us on the ropes. We were dead. They made some mistakes at the end to bring us back to life. They gave us mouth-to-mouth.”

Cornerback Carlos Rogers said the defense has a new commitment after halftime.

“Last year, coming out for the second half we did allow teams to drive on us,” Rogers said. “We have to stop doing that because it can change the momentum of the game. We want to come out and [force] a three-and-out and get the ball back for our offense.”

Although the defense ranked in the top 10 in three of its four years under former coordinator Gregg Williams, it surrendered more points before halftime than after it in all three of those seasons. But while the fourth quarter was Washington’s worst in 2007, this year it has been its best. The Redskins’ defense has yet to allow a fourth-quarter score this season.

“Everybody starts,” Blache said. “Every person overweight started a diet. Every smoker started quitting. The successful people finish. And that’s what we have to do. We have to be able to finish ballgames, make sure we finish strong and be able to finish our season strong.”

Blache credits his players for the improved second-half defense.

“We’re taking the initiative to close out games,” Rogers said.

Defensive end Andre Carter considers the difference psychological.

“It’s [halftime] adjustments, and it’s pride in ourselves as a defense,” Carter said. “We know we can play at a high level for four quarters. All that stuff is a mentality.”

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