For the first time this season, London Fletcher saw a hint of swagger in the Redskins' defense last Sunday.
He had good reason.
The defense allowed just 229 yards of total offense and 100 passing yards to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the Redskins won 16-13 at FedExField.
Early this season, Fletcher said the defense was not playing with confidence, despite allowing just 15.5 points per game.
The defense, ranked 12th in the NFL in defense though four games, struggled on third downs in losses to the New York Giants and Detroit Lions, though.
"When you're not playing up to your potential, when things aren't going well for you, it's hard to walk around with a great deal of confidence because you're not making plays," Fletcher said. "The first three weeks, a lot of that was going on here. The confidence wasn't what you need to have in order to make a play.
"This past ballgame, we played with a lot of confidence and a lot of passion. It carried over to where we're able to come back from 10 points down and win the football game."
The Redskins limited Tampa Bay to just 2-of-13 third-down conversions.
It should be noted that the Bucs' offense is in the bottom half of the league. So are the Carolina Panthers, this Sunday's opponent, but it's safe to say they have more offensive weapons.
The Redskins face a two-pronged running attack in DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart.
Last year, Williams compiled 1,515 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns while Stewart had 836 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns as a rookie.
Stopping the run has also been a problem area for the Redskins' defense this year.
The Redskins are ranked 22nd in the NFL against the run, yielding an average of 128.0 yards per game.
The defense has allowed more than 125 rushing yards each of the last three games and two backs have posted 100-yard efforts.
Of course, the Redskins remember Williams and Stewart from the 2008 preseason.
In a 47-3 loss to the Panthers at Bank of America Stadium, the Redskins' defense was shredded by Williams and Stewart. Williams had 101 yards and a touchdown on nine carries and Stewart added 100 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries.
Greg Blache said he showed his players the film from that game.
"They can sidestep you, they can run you over, and they have speed to the edge," Reed Doughty said. "We're really going to focus on taking them away. We've given up a few big runs [this season] and we have to stop that. That's going to be important."
Fletcher continues to be a key in the Redskins' run defense. He leads the NFL in tackles with 56 through four games.
-- KELLY HAS THUMB INJURY
Jim Zorn said on Thursday that Malcolm Kelly has been playing with a thumb injury the last few weeks.
"This has been a little bit ongoing, and my concerns are only for him to be able to get well," Zorn said. "But he has played with this. It hasn't affected him in any of the games."
Devin Thomas could see an increased workload as Kelly deals with the thumb.
"My plans aren't necessarily to play Malcolm less because of his thumb," Zorn said. "It's just Devin is coming on and he'll see more time."
Kelly is expected to start this Sunday's game at Carolina, Zorn added.
Kelly and Thomas, both 2008 second-round draft picks, are still struggling to make an impact.
They have combined for just seven catches for 72 yards in the first four games this season.
"I judge them all the time--I'm a big critic," Zorn said. "Malcolm has been working on a lot of things, being explosive and getting in and out of breaks. We haven't been able to get him the ball nearly as much as we'd like.
"Devin has been a bright spot even though he doesn't have a lot of catches. He is coming on in practice and giving greater effort. He is doing things that will earn him the right to get on the field."