Of all the things that went wrong for the Redskins last Saturday night in Carolina, run defense has to be near the top of the list.
With the opener at the Meadowlands just 11 days ahead, the Redskins have a lot of things to fix all of a sudden.
Certainly they have to find a way to shore up their ability to stop the run.
This is a proud defense that cringes whenever an opposing back has a good series, much less a 100-yard game.
In the course of Saturday evening's 47-3 embarrassment in Charlotte, two Panthers backs turned in 100-yard games.
DeAngelo Williams (9 carries, 101 yards, a 60-yard TD) and Jonathan Stewart (10 carries, 100 yards, a 50-yard TD) helped Carolina average 7.1 yards per carry on the night.
"It was like doing the Texas two-step with one leg," defensive coordinator Greg Blache said. "It was ugly. We didn't do things the way we wanted.
"We played against a good football team that exposed some of our weaknesses. We'll have to work to improve."
Williams and Stewart consistently hit into the line, then bounced outside for big gains, as Redskin defenders constantly either over-ran assignments or failed to fill gaps and make plays.
"We had some individual breakdowns," Blache said. "The one thing I noticed was, as I looked at all of the bad plays, it was a different guy every time.
"The one thing about great running backs, they're like water in a bucket. If you put a hole in your bucket, the running backs are going to find it. Those two backs found the hole in the bucket and they exploited us."
Even though Jason Taylor is not known as a great run-stopper, Taylor's absence from the game (with a right knee injury) had the effect of opening the flood gates.
Maybe it's just a strange coincidence but when Taylor departed so did the Redskins' chances.
"I don't want to make excuses for us," Blache said. "We stunk. Jason went down, but our job is to go play the next snap."
He added: "It was a great lesson for us--if we learn from it. If you're at the point of attack, maintain your discipline and your technique throughout the down."
In retrospect, the first three games of the preseason, versus Indianapolis, Buffalo and the Jets, were mere slumber parties compared to Week 4 and the Panthers.
From the outset, when Smith dove head-first and landed on his shoulder in an attempt to hook up with Jake Delhomme, Carolina played as if it had something to prove.
"You have to be ready to play from play one," head coach Jim Zorn said.
They'll need that approach when they open the NFL regular season in just 10 days.
Sure, the Redskins will strive to play sound defense in the preseason finale against Jacksonville this Thursday night.
But the team's focus needs to be on the New York Giants, too.
In the Redskins' matchup with the Giants in Week 15 last year, the Redskins gave up 130 yards on 25 carries to Brandon Jacobs, the 6-4, 264-pounder.
In the Giants' late-season surge, Ahmad Bradshaw, the rookie out of Marshall and Bluefield, Va., was a perfect complement to Jacobs with his darting and dashing style.
The Giants have two more big running backs with the 5-11, 220-pound Reuben Droughns and the 5-11, 228-pound Derrick Ward. Droughns scored two touchdowns against the Redskins in Week 3 last year.
The Redskins have to make sure their run defense is prepared for Jacobs, Bradshaw and company.
At the very least, it has to come as a wake-up call when a defense that held the Cowboys to just one yard rushing last Dec. 30 yielded 100-yard games to two backs in one game.