While the Washington Redskins were able to frustrate the No. 1-ranked offense in the league early during yesterday's game against the Indianapolis Colts, they struggled down the stretch, allowing five touchdowns to Andrew Luck along with a long rushing touchdown to Daniel "Boom" Herron.
On the very first play of the game, outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan – an Indiana native – easily got past tackle Gosder Cherilus and ripped the ball right out of Luck's hands before it was recovered by defensive end Jason Hatcher, eventually leading to a Kai Forbath field goal to give Washington an early 3-0 lead.
"First play of the game and we're able to get off the field and give the ball back to our offense with good field position," Kerrigan said after the game. "They capitalize and get three points, got an interception in the next series. It was a good start for us."
The interception came on a 2nd-and-9 from the Colts' own 45-yard line.
Lining up in shotgun, Luck had five receivers out wide.
But after Hatcher's rush up the middle flustered Luck into making a rushed decision, rookie cornerback Bashaud Breeland deflected his pass across the middle intended for veteran wide receiver Reggie Wayne.
Safety Ryan Clark would intercept the tipped pass and return it into Colts territory.
The defense's good fortunes would stall there, though, as the Colts would score touchdowns on three of their next four possessions before halftime, and then three out of their first four series out of the break.
Head coach Jay Gruden told reporters after the game that the defense needs to be more consistent if they want to hold off opposing offenses.
"Consistency is a big part of football," he said. "A lot of teams look good in a quarter, a drive or a half or maybe a couple games even, but really good teams can do it week-in and week-out and that's what we're trying to figure out.
"Defense gave us a really good opportunity early in the game. We had a chance to go up 14-nothing, 10-nothing, seven-nothing, but we blew it on offense, so we got out of the gate way too slow as an offensive unit. It looked like we were sleepwalking out of the huddle. It was just not a spirited performance in my opinion on offense. The defense, they tried the best they could but just too many mental [errors]."
Second-year cornerback David Amerson echoed Gruden's sentiment, saying that the lapses are what allowed the Colts to take the game.
"It's just one simple thing with this game: mental errors, and we had three big ones and 21 points," he said. "You can't do that. I think we've done a great job all year trying not to beat ourselves, from a defensive standpoint, trying not to beat ourselves, and then a game where we really had a chance, offense started clicking things, we started beating ourselves again.
"It's frustrating, but you just got to take it on the chin, deal with it, fix it, don't let it happen again and move on.
Clark – a veteran team leader in the locker room and on the field – said the defense needs to bring their good preparations during the week to gamedays.
"I think everybody in our room works hard," he said. "I love these dudes. I like the guys I work with. I love the way they work. I love the way they prepare, but you got to bring it to the grass and we need to bring it to the grass as a group.
"I'm in no way saying that other people don't take it as hard as I take it, but what I'm saying is we should all feel bad right now."
Moving forward, especially with a young secondary, Gruden wants to make sure the coaching staff is working with the defensive closely to correct mistakes and build on positive plays.
"We just have to keep coaching them," he said. "We just have to get them coached up and try to eliminate mistakes. Like I said, there is not a lot of game type experience back there. It's got to be one of the youngest groups in the NFL right now I would have to guess from top to bottom.
"It's not excuse but when you have a young group like that and you have different formations and different things like that and calls, sometimes communication gets mixed up and things happen."
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