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Defense Still Needs to Respond In the Clutch


A couple of minutes after Philadelphia pulled off its 33-25 shocker of a win on Sunday afternoon at FedExField, Byron Westbrook was walking up the tunnel toward the Redskins' locker room and talking about his older brother.

"He likes challenges," Westbrook, a rookie defensive back and member of the Redskins' practice squad, said in reference to his Pro Bowl sibling. "He always responds to challenges."

The difference in Sunday's game? In the critical moments, Brian Westbrook responded to the challenge, and the Redskins' defense did not.

A lot of that had to do with the absence of Sean Taylor, who left the game in the third quarter with a knee injury. Taylor almost certainly would have had an impact on the pivotal play of the game.

Westbrook rushed 20 times for 100 yards and a 10-yard score and he caught five passes for 83 yards. But the key play came with 3:29 left in the game. The Redskins were up 25-20. Philadelphia faced a second and two at its own 43.

At that point, another NFC East opponent began to dominate at FedExField, just as the New York Giants did in the latter stages of Week 3.

As the Redskins' defense blitzed, Westbrook took a screen pass in the right flat and darted and danced 57 yards to the end zone.

With that score, Philly had come from nine points down early in the fourth quarter to take a 26-25 lead that they would not relinquish.

For years in Eagles-Redskins matchups, it used to be Donovan McNabb who would frustrate Washington with his playmaking skills. That torch has been passed to Westbrook.

Overall, Philly was 6-for-10 on third down, picked up 379 yards of offense and featured four TD passes by McNabb.

The Redskins' defense made serious attempts to become faster in 2007 but on the Westbrook touchdown that appeared to be an issue once again.

In 2006, the Redskins produced 19 sacks, six fumble recoveries and six interceptions for a total of 31 key defensive plays.

Through the first eight games this season, the total was 33. That's 20 sacks, five fumble recoveries and eight interceptions.

So, overall, there is marked improvement. At the same time, the defense gave up a second-half lead for the third time this season. And you know what happened in Foxboro, Mass.

Now it's off to Texas Stadium and the 8-1 Cowboys, who are the class of the NFC East on the basis of their 31-20 win over the Giants late yesterday afternoon in the Meadowlands.

Washington had a great chance to hit 6-3 on Sunday until the window began to shut as soon as Brian Westbrook touched the ball on that fourth-quarter screen.

The Redskins, of course, know they need to play better on Week 11 against the team that is running away from the NFC East pack.

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