- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 29, 2019

EAST RUTHERFORD — On the surface, the Washington Redskins‘ defense looked better than they had to start the season in Sunday’s 24-3 loss against the New York Giants. The unit forced four turnovers, two interceptions and two fumbles. They limited rookie Daniel Jones to 225 passing yards.

But far too often, the Redskins (0-4) couldn’t get off the field — a common theme for a team that has the league’s worst third-down defense.

And in a new wrinkle: the Redskins defense committed four defensive penalties, each one costly.

The Giants went 8-of-13 on third down — good for 62%. That falls in line with the Redskins‘ average this season as they entered the afternoon giving up 63% of their third downs to opposing teams.

“We’re simplifying as much as possible,” Redskins safety Landon Collins said. “We’re making those plays count. We just have to be one step closer in the plays that work for us. We have to continue pushing that play.”

Perhaps the Redskins‘ worst third down of the day was a play that actually wasn’t a conversion at all.

Early in the first, Redskins coach Jay Gruden took a risk. Shortly after Case Keenum tossed an interception to give the Giants a short field, the Redskins had made a stop, which would have set up a 46-yard field goal attempt for New York. But on the play, New York drew a holding call — which Gruden accepted.

The coach’s thinking was understandable. The Giants had been pushed back to third-and-17, and out of field goal range. All Washington had to do was make another stop on third down, and New York would have to punt.

Instead, the Redskins gave up 15 yards.

And the Giants then converted on fourth-and-2, keeping the eventual touchdown drive alive.

“I didn’t think we’d struggle on that,” Gruden said. “I think that’s probably about a six percent chance in the league of converting (third-and-17).”

The Redskins‘ next defensive series wasn’t much better. Backed up at their own 6-yard line, the Giants took 13 plays to march 94 yards down the field for a 1-yard rushing touchdown from Wayne Gallman.

Along the way, the Redskins committed three penalties. On the first, Daron Payne and Jon Bostic saw their sack negated when Fabian Moreau was called for defensive holding. Later in the drive, cornerback Josh Norman was called for a facemask penalty on a 22-yard run from Gallman — though that play probably helped prevent a touchdown.

Two plays later, safety Montae Nicholson was whistled for defensive holding in the end zone, giving New York a fresh set of downs.

“Very frustrating,” said Quinton Dunbar, who had both of Washington’s interceptions. “You can’t win any games with the penalties we’re having. We have to be more disciplined and not get those penalties.”

For the second straight week, the Redskins went without giving up a touchdown after halftime. But they routinely have failed to get off to a strong start. This week, they faced a two-touchdown deficit by the second quarter and went into halftime trailing 17-3.

The unit showed some improvement, but it wasn’t drastic enough to prevent the loss.

“We just have to settle down in the first half,” Collins said. “If we do what we do in the second half, I think we can hold teams to three points or seven points within the game. … We’ll be on point if we keep doing it.”

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