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Redskins Defense Buckles Down After Slow Start


The Washington Redskins put forth a poor offensive performance Sunday afternoon, totaling more turnovers (four) than points (three) and gaining 176 yards in a 24-3 loss to the New York Giants.

At times these woes put Washington's defense in tough predicaments, such as when Case Keenum threw an interception on the opening possession that set New York up at the 32-yard line. The Giants went ahead, 7-0, a few minutes later.

Other times, the unit's struggles were self-inflicted. The Giants' second possession began at their own 6-yard line, yet it ended with another touchdown. Aided by several Redskins' penalties, the Giants put together a 13-play, 94-yard drive to take a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter.

From there, however, the Redskins defense stiffened. They allowed just three points the remainder of the game -- New York's third touchdown came via an interception return -- and forced four turnovers (two interceptions and two fumbles). In the second half, the Giants managed a measly 156 yards.

It served as a promising effort for an underachieving unit, which gave the Redskins offense plenty of chances to mount a comeback.

"Most definitely," corner Quinton Dunbar said when asked if the defense took a step forward against the Giants. "Guys competed, made plays. Like I said, we clean up a few things and [we'll be close]."

Check out photos of the Washington Redskins during their regular season Week 4 game against the New York Giants.

Dunbar was the biggest bright spot during the Redskins' fourth straight defeat Sunday. After missing the past two games with a knee injury, the veteran corner intercepted rookie quarterback Daniel Jones twice, broke up two passes and recorded three solo tackles. He earned an overall grade of 94.1 from the football analytics website Pro Football Focus -- his highest since entering the league in 2015.

Trailing 14-0 in the second quarter, Dunbar's interceptions came on back-to-back possessions and gave the Redskins solid field position both times. Still, the offense barely capitalized. They went three-and-out following the first interception -- Keenum's final drive of the game -- and then were forced to kick a 21-yard field goal minutes before halftime. These would be their last serious scoring opportunities of the game. 

"We keep on stepping forward," said safety Landon Collins, who recorded nine tackles against his former team. "We keep on doing what we need to do on the defensive side: trying to give the offense back the ball so they can move the ball downfield, make plays and put some points on the board."

This theme continued into the second half, as Washington forced a pair of fumbles but was shut out and held to 90 yards of total offense. The Redskins ventured into Giants' territory twice over the final two quarters. Both drives ended with interceptions from first-round rookie Dwayne Haskins.

"Whenever you create four turnovers, that's good enough to win a football game, no matter what you say," head coach Jay Gruden said in his weekly press conference Monday.

Gruden had mixed emotions about the defensive performance Sunday. On one hand, he thought the defense made some strides and liked the effort and fight from his group. "There's a lot to like about this defense," he said.

There's also a lot to correct. Gruden was not happy about the Giants' 94-yard touchdown drive or their 62% conversion rate on third downs. There were also far too many penalties and missed assignments, each one seemingly coming from a different player. Some of that can be attributed to having several newcomers in the starting lineup, Gruden added, but these are still damaging miscues for a group that entered the year with high expectations.

That being said, the defense has played better in past three halves than they have in the previous five to start the 2019 campaign. Now it's about elevating their game to an even higher level, especially with Tom Brady and the reigning Super Bowl champion New England Patriots coming to FedExField on Sunday.

"We've gotta all play together as one and I think we're starting to do that," Gruden said. "I think people are starting to have confidence in what we're calling and how to execute it. I feel good about the thought of our defense being great. We're just not there yet, but we're getting better. We've played four games already, we've gotta turn it up quick. We're playing the best quarterback in NFL history this week."

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