You know those signs you always see at sporting events where one guy wears a 'D' and his buddy wears a fence?
All of Washington needs to get to work on making themselves their own version of that sign... immediately.
Coming into 2004, the Washington Redskins defense had some question marks. 'Experts' said that the Redskins 'hadn't done enough to strengthen their offensive line', the Redskins 'couldn't account for the loss of Champ Bailey', and the Redskins 'had no depth'. Well, six games into the 2004 season, the Redskins are 2-4, which may seem to indicate that perhaps those experts were correct.
But not if you have been following the Redskins' season. The Redskins defense has been quite simply... one of the best. That's right, 6 games into the regular season, the 2-4 Redskins have one of the best defenses in the NFL. While the team may not have experienced much success this year, it hasn't been because of the defense. As has been written in nearly every 'The 5th Quarter' this season, the Redskins defense has given the team an opportunity to be in every game with their brilliant play.
Sunday was no exception. Witness the first half... Washington's defense stifled the Bears offense to an incredible 69 all-purpose yards... on 7 possessions. Even that is unfair, as 23 of those yards came on the last play of the half on a run by Jonathan Quinn on a broken play. Other than that rushing stat, Quinn managed a meager 27 yards on 12 attempts (4 receptions). The Bears ground attack faired no better managing just 42 yards (including Quinn's aforementioned 23-yard scamper). The defense pitched a shutout and completely stymied a Bears offense that has been moving the ball well on the ground.
Unfortunately, the Redskins offense must take the field as well. So instead of pitching a shutout, the Redskins were only up 10-7 thanks to a Mark Brunell interception that was returned 70 yards for a Bears touchdown and the Bears only 'positive' of the first half.
Even in the second half, the Bears did not have much of a solution for the staunch Redskins defense. While they did manage to move the ball a little more effectively, the only points they could muster was a field goal late in the game to draw within three points. Quinn finished the day a pathetic 10 of 22 for just 65 yards. Ironically, Quinn had half as many yards on two carries (32 yards). Thomas Jones was held to under 100 yards rushing (24 caries for 97 yards), much of that yardage coming in the fourth quarter.
Some of the onus for the opposition's improved efficiency against the Redskins defense late in games has to be put on the Redskins offense. It is the offense's inability to sustain long drives and put up points that is putting the defense in the awkward position of still fighting for wins despite having only given up three points.
Brunell did not finish much better than Quinn managing just 95 yards on his 22 attempts (8 completions). He continues to struggle though he did play a 'smart' first half. If the passing attack could get on track they would make it impossible for a 170+ yard day like Clinton Portis' had on Sunday nearly go for naught. Portis 'broke out' against the Bears putting up 171 yards on an exhausting 36-carry effort. He ran well all day and helped hide some of the anemia of the Redskins passing game.
But in the end, it was the defense that made the difference. Gregg Williams has proved himself to be one of the smartest defensive minds in the game. The defense that 'didn't do enough to strengthen their line', 'couldn't account for the loss of Champ Bailey' and 'had no depth', has done it without Lavar Arrington, Michael Barrow, and Phillip Daniels. Even with the additional loss of starter Matt Bowen last week, the defense was game for Chicago, and they got the Redskins the statistic they needed most going into the bye week, a win.