Redskins Film Review: Defense

Thoughts and observations after re-watching the Washington Redskins' defense versus the Chicago Bears:

1. Yes, the defense gave up too many yards and points in the second half (24 points, 313 yards) to a backup quarterback. Receivers were open; running lanes created and if not for a fantastic effort from the offense, this would have been more of the headline. But give the defense credit for doing a fantastic job in the first half. The Bears started two possessions in Redskins’ territory (at the Washington 47 and then the 10) and a third at their own 45-yard line, but the Redskins held them to 10 points. Certainly it could have been better – they could have forced a three-and-out on the first series and held them to a field goal on the second. But this is not a shutdown defense and it was facing an excellent offense.

2. The Redskins held Chicago to zero first downs on four third-down attempts in the first half. But the Bears converted two of four in the second. In general, the Redskins did a solid job moving Jay Cutler off his spot, much as they did to Dallas' Tony Romo the previous week. That's a combination of good coverage and enough pressure.

3. One reason Josh McCown scrambled for so many yards (four carries, 33 yards) is because the Redskins played man coverage and occasionally lost their rush lanes, creating nice pockets for a run. For example, on a 10-yard run in the fourth quarter -- on a second-and-9 from the Redskins’ 16-yard line -- end Stephen Bowen got caught rushing too far inside and linebacker Brian Orakpo went wide. That left a lane for McCown. One play later, running back Matt Forte scored on a run up the middle.

4. A pivotal sequence occurred in the third quarter, enabling the Redskins to hold Chicago to zero points in the red zone (thanks to a Robbie Gould missed 34-yard field goal). It started on second-and-1 when Orakpo shot inside the tight end and right at Forte after he took a handoff. Orakpo tackled him for a two-yard loss setting up a pass. McCown then did not throw to an open Alshon Jeffery, cutting inside at the 10-yard line. Jeffery had separated from corner David Amerson. It’s an easy throw-and-catch. But McCown hesitated, then was forced to scramble to his right and the coverage did a good job clamping on the receivers, forcing a throwaway and then a missed field goal.

5. Corner DeAngelo Hall nearly intercepted Cutler twice. Hall said he broke off his man both times because of how he (correctly) read the play. Sometimes it’s a designed trap (as it was versus Green Bay when the Packers weren’t trapped and threw a touchdown pass). But these were about reading it right.

6. One of those near-picks came when the Redskins used their three-inside linebacker set. Didn’t seem to cause any confusion in Cutler (they called a time out the next time they used it, but McCown was at quarterback). But one of those three, Nick Barnett, dropped to his left in coverage and after Hall missed the ball he tagged Marshall, who was on the ground after a seven-yard catch.

7. I don’t know if there was a missed assignment or what on Forte’s 50-yard touchdown run, but the hole was absolutely huge. The Redskins were in man coverage so linebacker London Fletcher covered tight end Martellus Bennett as he broke to the right flat. Outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan rushed at McCown and the rest of the line slanted to the right. That left a big cutback lane for Forte. Safety Brandon Meriweather ran up under control, but then corner DeAngelo Hall, sprinting to the middle falls in front of him with receiver Brandon Marshall right behind him. That created enough of a pileup for Forte to cut back outside and score untouched.

8. Nose tackle Chris Baker showed up again, in more ways than just his sack (where he stunted from the left guard all the way through to the right guard in a well-designed and executed play). The Redskins have two athletic nose tackles and when Baker is on, he’s a big help. One play still resulted in a first down, but that wasn’t Baker’s fault. On a second-and-1, he stood up the center, shed the block and tackled Forte for a three-yard gain. Bowen was moved too far to the inside, which left a hole. Later in the third quarter, Baker penetrated to the right shoulder of the center on a play going the other direction. Baker ran down the line and was able to grab Forte’s legs. Linebacker London Fletcher filled the hole for a stop.

9. Speaking of nose tackles, there are times when it looks like starter Barry Cofield is in a pinball game. On his sack late in the game three different Bears tried to hit him. First he broke through a double team, then had a back run at him. He pushed through all of that and, thanks to Kerrigan’s pressure, joined in the sack. Also liked how well Cofield read an outside run by Forte. At the snap, Cofield engages and then as Forte heads left, Cofield starts to run parallel with him -- not looking a the ballcarrier. He runs into a blocker, then turns and fills the hole. Guess that’s what they mean by instincts.

10. Orakpo made a number of good plays -- obviously the interception, which was a result of running to the ball after a pass and grabbing a tip, courtesy of Reed Doughty; and he played the run pretty well. But he did draw a 15-yard penalty on a third-and-8 incompletion on McCown. But it was a well-designed play that did lead to pressure. He and Kerrigan, starting from their respective sides, both blitzed to the opposite A gap. So Orakpo ran from left outside linebacker through the right guard. Rob Jackson was alongside Kerrigan and ran upfield, occupying the right tackle and right guard and corner Josh Wilson blitzed from the left slot.