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This Time, Third Downs Eluded Defense


It used to be that in these Redskins-Giants games, Tiki Barber would emerge--invariably--as the nemesis for the Redskins' defense.

On Week 3, it seemed to be just about any Giant who had the ball on third down.

Particularly in the second half, Washington's defense in third-down situations left much to be desired.

The unquestioned leader on that side of the ball, first-year Redskins middle linebacker London Fletcher, put it this way: "We were terrible on third down. We have to improve there."

Overall, the beleaguered Giants converted nine of 16 thirds, or 56 percent. In the second half, as the Giants came back from a 17-3 halftime deficit, the Giants converted 5-of-6 third-down plays, plus converted two more via Redskins penalties.

Those were among the more significant stats as the Redskins slipped to 2-1 in the course of a very frustrating 24-17 setback in front of a record FedExField crowd of 90,803.

On Week 1, Gregg Williams' defense held Miami to just four of 13 conversions on third downs, or 31 percent. In the Monday Night contest in Philadelphia, the third-down numbers for the Eagles were four of 16, or just 25 percent.

Against the Giants, things came apart in that area for a Redskins defense that looked to be on its way back to its attacking form of 2004 and 2005, when it was one of the most punishing defenses in the NFL.

Having pointed out that the Redskins fell short in third-down settings, the real breakdown actually came on a second-down play.

It was a 17-17 game with 5:40 to go and New York faced a second-and-nine at the Washington 33-yard line.

Eli Manning sought out tall, rangy Plaxico Burresss, who side-stepped a less than textbook Carlos Rogers tackling effort, out-ran Sean Taylor and plowed into the end zone as LaRon Landry arrived a second late with a major hit.

You have to know that Detroit Lions quarterback Jon Kitna and the tall, rangy wide receivers of the Detroit Lions--Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson, in particular--will be taking note.

The Lions, who were routed at Philadelphia 56-21 on Sunday, are at FedExField on Week 5.

Against Philadelphia, Kitna, although sacked nine times, threw for 446 yards, going 29 of 46, with two TDs. Williams caught nine passes for 204 yards, including a 91-yard TD.

Detroit hosts Chicago next week while the Redskins look for ways to correct the obvious things that went wrong against the Giants--turnovers, questionable goal-line calls and third-down defense among them. The latter of those may prove to be the most challenging.

Phillip Daniels returned to the lineup and produced three tackles and batted down a Manning attempt in one of the Redskins' successful third-down stops. That came with 8:34 left in a tie game and Manning trying to throw to Shockey from his own 16.

On the day, there just weren't enough of those key third-down stops for Washington's defense.

Said Daniels, who missed the game at Philadelphia because of a foot bruise: "We just have to learn to finish. We're still a good team. We'll correct those mistakes."

Added Fletcher: "We didn't play the style that got us the lead at halftime. They out-executed us, and speaking from a defensive standpoint, we allowed too many third-down conversions."

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