BALTIMORE – After the victory last week, Washington Redskins linebacker Will Compton faced a steady stream of reporters, whose questions prevented him from celebrating a win over Cleveland. One question was asked repeatedly: What’s wrong with the defense?
It wasn’t just Compton who got that question, it was just about anyone associated with the defense in the days leading up to Sunday's 16-10 win over the Baltimore Ravens. And it was like that all week. What’s wrong with the defense? It did not feel like the defense had participated in a second straight win. Rather, it felt like they had caused two losses. In some ways, it wasn’t a bad thing.
“I like that the expectations are high,” Compton said late in the week.
Yes, they are. And after Sunday, you have to wonder: Where has this sort of game been? The Redskins forced eight punts, held Baltimore to three-of-15 on third downs and, well, did their job when needed.
“The biggest thing was mastering the situation,” Redskins linebacker Mason Foster said. “We would get in good situations. If we’re stopping the run on first and second, we get them in third-and-long. You just have to make the play and finish it. When we do that, we’re a dangerous defense.”
That's why the Redskins can feel good about what they did in this one, leading the Redskins to their second straight road victory over a team with a winning record. They out-Ravened the Ravens, playing a smart, disciplined game and tackling well (aside from two misses that led to long runs). It was the sort of game they needed to play, to prove something not just to others, but also to themselves. If the Redskins are going to be a legitimate contender -- even in the NFC East -- their defense had to make a stand at some point. Sunday was that day. After giving up a touchdown on the opening series, the Redskins allowed just three points the rest of the game.
"The first drive was a little scary," Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. "Here we go again. But they came back and took it personal and played well. They did what it took to win."
In fact, in the past three weeks, the Redskins’ defense has allowed just nine second-half points. In one sequence Sunday, they forced four straight three-and-outs. They defended screens with excellent reads by Compton and Foster. They received good pressure from the front, notably by defensive end Chris Baker and linebacker Trent Murphy. The secondary gave up nothing down the field as Joe Flacco consistently was forced to throw underneath.
On a day when the offense failed to take advantage of a number of positive down-and-distance situations, the Redskins needed their defense to come through. The special teams also contributed significantly, aside from a missed extra point, of course: Jamison Crowder’s 85-yard punt return for a touchdown was a highlight. But the defense had to keep coming up big, as they did on Baltimore’s final possession with a stand at the Ravens’ 23. Time and again, the Redskins failed to put Baltimore away. Time and again, the defense made sure it didn’t matter.
They deserved the scrutiny after some lousy games early in the season. But they proved their mettle Sunday.
"Everyone's saying the D-line is trash, Will and Mason are trash, the safeties are trash," Compton said. "Everyone's going to talk until you put it on film and do what we know how to do. Know what you did wrong and see what you did wrong, and then you're going to fix it and work on it and then it's about coming to work with that optimistic mindset no matter what and never let that doubt creep in."
The team got a huge win; the defense got a huge boost. The Redskins needed both.