- - Sunday, November 13, 2011

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — If it’s not one thing, it’s another for Washington’s defense.

After struggling to force turnovers over the past three games, the unit intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble Sunday. But this week, the Redskins could not get off the field in important situations as the Miami Dolphins converted 57 percent of their third-down opportunities in a 20-9 victory.

“That was the big thing today,” linebacker Ryan Kerrigan said. “That’s something we’ve been really good at this year. I think we’re one of the top five or six teams in the league on third down, but we weren’t able to get off the field today. Ultimately, I think that led to their long, sustained drives.”

In fact, the Redskins entered with the fifth-best third-down defense in the NFL, limiting opposing offenses to a 32.7 percent conversion rate through the first eight games.

But Miami was successful in confusing Washington with different offensive formations in those spots.

“They moved [Brandon] Marshall around a couple of times to kind of create situations and matchups they liked,” linebacker London Fletcher said. “We tried different coverages and pressures to try to negate what they were doing. We tried single out, we tried pressures, we had a couple two-on-two man, straight cover two, cover three, a little bit of everything.”

Not much seemed to work, though, as the Dolphins were able to gain just enough yards to convert three third-down chances during their two possessions that ended with a touchdown.

“We just couldn’t get it done,” said linebacker Perry Riley, who made his first career start Sunday. “I can’t pinpoint exactly what the problem was.”

Aside from its inability to stop Miami in these situations, Washington’s defense gave its offense opportunities to put up points.

In the first quarter, cornerback Kevin Barnes intercepted a pass and returned it to Miami’s 5-yard line, and in the third quarter Kerrigan forced a fumble that was recovered at Miami’s 24.

However, the Redskins managed just two field goals.

“You always want to get six points every time you have the ball with a short field,” Kerrigan said. “But our job as a defense is to, no matter what our offense is doing, hold the other team out of the end zone and off the scoreboard, and we didn’t do that.”

Instead, a turnover hurt the Redskins, when quarterback Rex Grossman threw an interception to kill a drive that had Washington on Miami’s 10-yard line in the fourth quarter. The Dolphins broke the game open by scoring a touchdown on the following possession.

But defensive players continue to insist that the offense’s play is not affecting them.

“Really when I focus on stuff, I look at it from a defensive standpoint,” Fletcher said. “We did enough things today defensively to keep us from winning. We did some things with the takeaways, but at the end of the day, we lost.”

That mentality has not helped the defense to overcome Washington’s offensive struggles. The Redskins have scored a total of 20 points in their past three games - all losses.

“I’m running out of material,” linebacker Brian Orakpo said. “I don’t know what else to tell you. I’ve never been a part of something like this, and we just have to keep fighting, man. I know we have a good team and great players on this team, we just have to put it together.”

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