Redskins fans received quite the letdown when the burgundy and gold gave up 14 points right off the bat to the St. Louis Rams, a team that had won only won game out of its last 28 beforehand. On top of that, the Redskins were given ample opportunity to pull out a victory when they took a 16-14 lead and were relegated to stopping reserve running back Kenneth Darby after their bruising starter Steven Jackson suffered an injury that would keep him out of the second half of the game.
Linebacker Andre Carter says that the bad defensive play is mostly related to not stopping the Rams offense at crucial points of their drives and not efficiently performing the basics.
“We didn't get off of [the field after] third downs and we also didn't tackle effectively in that game. Those were the disappointing factors in that game,” Carter said.
Carter also says that the team did not get too content once the Redskins took their only lead of the game.
“We never were complacent during the game,” he said. “We made too many mental errors and the Rams capitalized off our mistakes in addition to creating big plays of their own.”
One play that had people questioning the defensive set was the Rams second touchdown of the game, which was a short 3-yard lob from top pick Sam Bradford to tight end Daniel Fells. On that play, defensive lineman Adam Carriker was pursuing Bradford to the sideline and cornerback DeAngelo Hall left Fells alone in the back of the endzone to pursue Bradford even though Carter and Carriker were closer. Many felt Hall should have stayed back and that Carter should have pursued Bradford. Here is Carter’s account of that play:
“It was all a blur during that play,” he said. “I really wasn't focused on what DeAngelo was doing. I was in coverage trying to find the nearest threat near me. I saw within the corner of my eye that a receiver was making their way towards me. I did what was needed in that play.”
Carter attributes plays such as that as part of the growing pains of a team adjusting from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4. He reiterates that stopping offenses on third downs is one of the biggest things the defense needs to work on in order to turn the results around.
“There are times of growing pains as we analyze the past three games,” Carter said. “We are strong on the run. Our issue is getting of the field on third down. It's been killing us. Once that is eliminated the game is more balanced.”
Speaking of the run, the Redskins seemed to find a way to beat the Rams on the ground but Clinton Portis was taken out of the game after falling on a 27-yard run. Earlier in the week, it was revealed that Portis did that to protect his injured hand/wrist since there were five Rams defenders around him. Despite backup Ryan Torain, who was called up from the practice squad at the end of last week, performing at a high level, the running game was abandoned towards the end of the game. Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan only called five running plays in the second half, all of which were used up in the first two offensive drives.
While Carter said he does not know why the team abandoned the running game when it appeared to be on the right track, he does have faith in the arm of Donovan McNabb, who makes his return to Philadelphia for the first time in the burgundy and gold after giving that city 11 productive years as their leader and star quarterback. Carter says he can envision what McNabb will be going through on Sunday and knows that the team will want this win for him.
“This is a homecoming for McNabb. I can’t really speak on his behalf but experiencing what I felt when we played the 49ers, I can imagine what he's going through. So Sunday we will play hard for him and each other,” Carter said.
McNabb’s heir apparent, Kevin Kolb, has been replaced by Michael Vick, who, after three games, has appeared to regain his old form on the ground and has improved his skills through the air as well.
“I think everyone was curious on how he would come back. Last year, when he played, it was a transition. However, the more he played, the more his comfort to becoming the old Vick started to arise. Now look at him this year. He is becoming successful,” Carter said.
The Redskins are certainly well aware that he is more of a threat than Bradford was last week. They know that the best way to stop Vick is to contain him in the pocket and not allow him to use his feet as a weapon.
“We have to be great at pass rushing first. It's vital we control the gaps in the middle and control the edges on the front and backside,” Carter said.
Along with receiver Jeremy Maclin, who has four touchdown receptions already this season, Vick’s play-making partner-in-crime, speedy wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who is averaging 24.5 yards a catch, is also someone the Redskins defense needs to keep an eye on.
“He's an amazing player who creates amazing plays. From the reverse plays to deep balls in the passing game, he can be a frustrating player to guard. We have to be technically sound and play [smart] football,” Carter said.
McNabb was quoted this week as saying that this game is a “must-win.” Not necessarily true but it will certainly help lift the team’s spirits and placement in the division standings. A win against the Eagles would put the Redskins at the top of the NFC East with two divisional wins already and could possibly turn around the mood of the D.C./Maryland/Virginia area, which has been downtrodden since the heartbreaking loss to the Houston Texans and a disappointing performance against the St. Louis Rams.
“This is only the beginning of the season. There is so much football left. I am looking forward to compete and win. Yes, the losses were disappointing; however, we can turn that around. Division wins are a two-for-one matchup. When you win a division game, as a team, you have an extra edge on the division opponents. We know that as a team and the Eagles know that,” Carter said.
TeeterSalad: Will the defense prepare for Vick differently than most other QB's because of his ability to escape the pocket and make plays with his feet?
AC: We have to play our game. Vick is one of many offensive weapons on the Eagles team. If you focus on one man, then you neglect other players on the opposing side. But playing against Vick, especially in pass rush [the goal is to] basically get him down. If he scrambles, [we need to] have the players who are not in coverage to rally to him and prevent him from gaining additional yardage if it was so simple.
REDEEMEDSKIN: As a player, how do you feel about Coach Shanahan's "Belichick-esque" control of information coming in and out of Ashburn (such as what the media can Tweet or report on during practices)? Does it help, harm, or have no effect at all on the team's game plan from week to week?
AC: From a coach’s point of view, I think it's good to have a strict policy with the media. With mass media streaming in various avenues, opponents will try to get info any way possible in order to have an edge in the game. When you are brief with what's going on with the team, the opposition has to prepare for every single obstacle that might come their way.