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Redskins' Run Defense a Late-Season Concern


Early this season, the Redskins were able to hold their own in run defense.

Not anymore.

Since the bye week, when the Redskins were ranked 18th against the run, the defense has been gashed time and again on the ground.

The unit was exposed again in Sunday's 31-7 loss to the New York Giants. The defense yielded 197 and four rushing touchdowns to the Giants.

The problems surfaced in Week 10 when the Philadelphia Eagles amassed 260 rushing yards against the Redskins. In subsequent weeks, the Tennessee Titans rushed for 151 rushing yards and the Minnesota Vikings compiled 137 yards on the ground.

Against New York, poor tackling contributed to the Redskins' woes.

Brandon Jacobs led the Giants with 103 yards and two touchdowns on just eight carries, while Ahmad Bradshaw had 97 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries.

Head coach Mike Shanahan said he saw effort from his players, but the results were not encouraging.

"If you take a look at the missed tackles, there was one right after the other," he said. "I watched them as the game went on. You have to have a lot of guys tackling and there has to be sure tackles.

"We were hitting different people, but they were running through us. You have to wrap guys up -- you can't tackle the way we did.

"In the second half, we came back and tackled better on defense. But in the first half it wasn't obviously a game we were very proud of."

Problems arose on the second play of the game.

Giants running back Brandon Jacobs broke a pair of tackles on a run to the left and raced downfield for 39 yards. It set a tone.

The Giants' opening drive was capped by an 8-yard touchdown run by Jacobs, who cut back on a run up the middle and eased into the end zone.

On the Giants' next drive, they advanced into scoring range again. At the Redskins' 4-yard line, running back Ahmad Bradshaw found a lane to the right, avoided a tackle by Ma'ake Kemoeatu and carried Reed Doughty into the end zone for the score.

Late in the second quarter, Bradshaw and the Giants took advantage of an Anthony Armstrong fumble that set the offense up at the Redskins' 39-yard line.

At the 10-yard line, the Redskins elected to send London Fletcher on a blitz up the middle -- a play that has worked out well for the defense this season.

The Giants read it right, though. Manning handed off to Bradshaw, who burst through a hole behind right guard and past the defensive line to right where Fletcher would have been.

Bradshaw barreled into Brian Orakpo and Kareem Moore at the goal line and his momentum carried all three into the end zone.


Midway through the third quarter, the Giants put the game away by capitalizing on a Donovan McNabb fumble.

Three plays later, Jacobs ran up the middle through a gaping hole -- despite nine Redskins positioned in the box.

Jacobs broke open field tackles by Kevin Barnes and Doughty, who had dropped back to free safety just as the ball was snapped.

Jacobs skipped into the end zone for a 28-yard touchdown run.

"It's extremely frustrating," linebacker London Fletcher said after the game. "Same old story week in and week out. We're just not a sound fundamental football team. Poor tackling, probably the worst tackling team I've been around.

"We don't catch footballs, don't hold onto the ball, don't tackle well. Those things are things that you need to do on every level in order to win football games."

Some of the defense's struggles can be attributed to injuries, specifically the absence of strong safety LaRon Landry.

Landry re-aggravated an Achilles injury in the Eagles game and the run defense has not been the same since.

Landry was second behind Fletcher in tackles at the time of his injury.

Cornerback Carlos Rogers has been sidelined two of the last three games due to a hamstring injury. Rogers is solid in run support from the secondary.

"You adjust anytime you have players out, especially guys like LaRon and Carlos, those caliber of guys," defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said prior to the Giants game. "Obviously LaRon is one of the elite players and you miss guys like that, but you have to adapt to what you have.

Also, defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth was deactivated prior to the game after he was slowed by an illness last week.

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