After a shocking loss to the St. Louis Rams, the Redskins surprised naysayers by following up that performance with two surprising victories against top conference foes. The latest came courtesy of a 33-yard boot in overtime from kicker Graham Gano against the highly touted Green Bay Packers.
The defense continues to play a bend but don’t break style but this season it seems to be taken to the extreme on a weekly basis. For example, the Packers put up an astonishing 209 yards in the first quarter but the Redskins were able to hold them to seven points in that time.
Linebacker Andre Carter said old habits that haven’t been broken yet are the reason opposing offenses have racked up so many yards week in and week out.
“What killed us were big plays and long drives,” he said. “Getting off on third down has always been a struggle and we have continued to focus on those areas.”
Carter added another fundamental element that needs to be addressed with the defense.
“Tackling, tackling, tackling,” he said. “We need to hit and wrap up. We are getting better at times but it's an emphasis we are continuing to develop.”
While the defense continues to look to improve, the offense is trying to get into a rhythm as well, having put up more than 17 points only once this season, which was in a loss to the Houston Texans. The Redskins offense has also been outgained in all five games this season.
Despite these stats, the team had pulled off three important conference wins in a tough schedule through the first five weeks.
What do these types of stats say about this offense?
“(It says) that despite the odds, the offense knows how to create big plays when the opportunity arises,” Carter said.
Carter says the defense is doing its part throughout the week to help the offense gel and prepare for opponents.
“The scout defense during practice has shown many great looks to prepare our offense for game day situations. The offense will eventually get in sync,” he said.
Carter agrees with fellow linebacker London Fletcher, who, following the Packers game, said that last season, these types of games would have been checked off in the L column but that the mentality has certainly changed this year despite the inconsistencies on both sides of the ball.
“London makes a good point that our confidence last year in scenarios similar to Sunday would have been at an all-time low,” Carter said. “We probably would have lost but with the new regime we have continued to push through adversity.”
With this new attitude, the team is now 3-2 and one game away from being the best team in the NFC, which is a motivating position to be in for Carter.
“As a team, it forces us to utilize that momentum and continue to win. The NFC East has always been a competitive division and to be ahead is a goal. Of course our main goal is to win the NFC East. The Redskins organization has not clinched the division for a long time,” Carter said.
The last two victories have certainly built self-esteem but there is still progress to be made.
“We are on track but we have a long way to go. The journey to success is a long road. But when you reach the mountain top, you feel victorious,” Carter said.
That road to success continues this week through the Indianapolis Colts, who come to FedEx Field with a 3-2 record, which is disappointing by their standards considering they started out last season 14-0. Indianapolis is also in a four-way tie with the rest of their division but technically sit at the bottom because of their losses to the Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars.
Despite not being undefeated at this point, which has been a regular feat for them in recent years, the Colts are still as dangerous as ever offensively and will test the defense on prime time television this Sunday night.
The Redskins have faced high-powered offenses all season long but the Colts are a horse of a different color (no pun intended) when it comes to marching up and down the field.
According to Carter, it’s the chemistry amongst everyone in the offense that makes them so successful.
“We have to be conditioned, which I know we are,” he said. “They run the no-huddle offense. It's tough to play against. One thing about the Colts, especially on the offensive side of the ball, is everyone is in sync. They know how Manning works and the communication with each other is on point.”
Where Manning goes, the Colts tend to go so the number one goal for the defense will be to get to Peyton Manning constantly and disrupt his timing with his receivers.
“It's always a goal to get Manning off rhythm,” Carter said. “He's the best of the best and his style of offense is the no-huddle scheme. We have to be smart on pass rush and the secondary and linebackers have to communicate in the backfield.”
The Colts are arguably the best team the Redskins will face this year so a win against them in a prime time setting could set the tone for the rest of the season. Carter definitely knows what’s at stake and is eagerly anticipating what will come.
“This game is going to take a team effort this Sunday night,” he said. “Here is a team that has won playoff appearances and a Super Bowl. This game will be a mental and physical test. We are looking forward to the matchups.”
PAPDOG67: Andre, I was a fan of Jason Campbell, but the truth is he had only one 4th quarter comeback in 52 starts with the Redskins. Has the defense's mindset changed a little bit this year knowing you have a QB who can now bring you back in the second half??
AC: Of course it has changed. Look at the history of Mr. 5, He has had so many 4th quarter comebacks as long as I could remember. It eases the pressure on us, however we still need to do our part on defense.
REDEEMEDSKIN: Coach Shanahan commented that there was "no finger pointing" going on during the game against the Packers, a clear sign of maturation and professionalism for this team. As a veteran, can you name 2 or 3 areas where you've personally applied this change of attitude to your preparation on a weekly basis?
AC: The first is accountability. As individuals and players we have to look at ourselves in the mirror and ask “what can we do better?” The second is trust. Trust in each other and trust that each man will fight to the very end.
REDEEMEDSKIN: Have you tried shoulder pressing (military press) Brandon Banks yet? If so, how many reps did you get?
AC: For one, no grown man will ask another man to shoulder press him. That's something that dudes don't do.