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Defense Gets a Chance For Redemption

It seems like ages ago that the Redskins traveled to the Meadowlands to take on the Giants. The New Yorkers dominated that day, by a score of 19-3.




Since Oct. 8, both teams have really struggled--and that's putting it mildly.

When they meet on Saturday night at FedExField in the 2006 regular-season finale, the Redskins' defense will be out to make amends for an embarrassing outing in St. Louis in which it gave up 579 yards.

Redskins assistant head coach Gregg Williams said afterward: "We have to learn from this--as a staff, as coaches, as players. You have to learn from every single opportunity you have. We have one more week to set the kind of stage we want heading into the offseason."

Meantime, the floundering Giants will be fighting for their playoff lives in what may be Tiki Barber's last game.

And then there's a bit of possibly lingering animosity stemming from the Week 5 game at Giants Stadium. Essentially, in published reports, two Giants offensive players said they didn't like some of the Redskins' defensive tactics, but hopefully both teams will have amnesia over that whole issue.

If you have anything to do with playing or coaching defense for the Redskins, you certainly don't want the figure 579 dancing in your head until next September. Washington's defense gets another shot at self-respect before 2006 comes to a close.

For the record, back on Oct. 8 the Giants outgained the Redskins 411-164. But that was when Barber, Eli Manning and company were really rolling. Since then, Tom Couglin's team has imploded. Coughlin has taken on an apologetic posture toward Giants fans.

The Redskins have their own problems--but mostly on the defensive side of the ball.

On Tuesday, when asked about his team's defense in the game at St. Louis, Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs said: "We felt like our guys truly played hard. At times, we did not play as smart as we would have liked to."

And then there is the startling lack of turnovers forced by the defense.

The Redskins are on the verge of setting an NFL record of fewest defensive turnovers in a 16-game season. They have just 12 this season--six interceptions and six forced fumbles. The record for fewest defensive turnovers is 15, set by Green Bay and St. Louis in 2004.

"Our defensive coaches have put a big emphasis on that--but that really kind of blows my mind how we wound up in that situation," Gibbs said. "I think it kind of has us all baffled. We've got our hands on balls, but we've just not been able to get turnovers. It frustrates you. Turnovers are a big part of the game, too. Our defensive coaches know that."

No matter how you look at it, 579 just won't go away by itself. Key figures Marcus Washington and Shawn Springs won't be able to help on Saturday night. Whoever lines up for the Redskins had better make sure Tiki, Manning and Plaxico Burress don't conjure up memories of Steven Jackson, Marc Bulger and Isaac Bruce.

This defense needs to close out 2006 like it closed out 2004 when it outfought Minnesota 21-18 and sent Randy Moss to the exits early.

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