Redskins can't afford another mixed day vs. Aaron Rodgers

LANDOVER, Md. -- For the Washington Redskins to emerge from one of their ugliest home openers in recent history, all they have to do is beat Aaron Rodgers and then Drew Brees in their next two games.

In other words, it’s only two weeks into the season and already they’ve put themselves in a bad spot.

While Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck did not pick them apart all day, the Colts' offense certainly was efficient enough on three drives to score 21 points. Those three drives all gained 75 yards. The defense even intercepted Luck twice. However, the real problem for the defense was that it needed to play even better because of a struggling offense. And the Redskins needed to be better on third down and in the red zone.

If they don't play better situational football, they’ll be picked apart by quarterbacks such as Rodgers on Sunday at home and Brees in a Monday night road game on Oct. 8. After beating Arizona in the season opener, the Redskins had a chance to grab momentum the other way. They failed in the 21-9 loss to the Colts. Now, after losing Sunday, they’re trying to avoid an early hole.

The one so-called positive on the day: The division favorite Philadelphia Eagles lost to Tampa Bay. But the Redskins need to worry about themselves first and foremost for the next 14 games.

“It’s very important [to improve],” running back Chris Thompson said. “I mean, it’s Aaron Rodgers coming in. We don’t have it together, then we get embarrassed again.”

Green Bay’s offense has scored 53 points in two games, and that includes when Rodgers missed the second quarter at Chicago in the opener.

“When you get the opportunity to face one of the top quarterbacks in this league -- if not No. 1 then No. 2,” Redskins corner Josh Norman said, “we have to key in on everything they give us.”

The Colts finished with only 281 yards, and 225 came on the three scoring drives. The two D.J. Swearinger interceptions set Washington up well at its own 42-yard line and the Colts’ 29. The Redskins managed three points on those drives. It’s hard to blame the defense for the loss when that’s the result of two golden opportunities.

But the Redskins also allowed Indianapolis to convert 9 of 16 third downs. Of those nine conversions, eight were on third-and-3 or fewer. When it mattered, the Colts made more plays.

“When you don’t do it, you get a team that scores 21 points when you felt you were stopping them most of the game,” Redskins linebacker Mason Foster said.

It’s hard for a pass rush to be a factor when in that situation. The Colts were 1 of 7 when it was third-and-4 or longer. In the opener, the Redskins sent five or more pass-rushers in five out of 37 dropbacks. Sunday, it was 17 out of 33. That meant more man coverage, and the Colts picked it apart with rub routes and picks in crucial spots.

The Redskins had handled those plays well vs. Arizona. A lot comes down to communication. But before the Colts’ final touchdown, the Redskins faced a bunch set in which it was a given that a pick would be used. The defensive backs knew it and communicated before the snap. But on the snap the front man, corner Fabian Moreau, was essentially blocked by the Colts’ front receiver, allowing the man he was going to handle – T.Y. Hilton -- break free for an easy, 3-yard touchdown catch.

“We did not do a very good job passing those off or switching them in and out,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said.

Outside linebackers Preston Smith and Ryan Kerrigan weren’t able to take better advantage of a weakened situation at both tackle spots for the Colts. At times Kerrigan was double-teamed off the edge, and he did force Luck up in the pocket on occasion. But they didn’t do enough.

If they let Rodgers have similar scenarios, they’ll be lucky to emerge having allowed just 21 points, let alone victorious.

And a 1-2 record heading into an early bye week would be a buzz kill for a franchise that needs to rekindle love among the fan base. There’s a reason only 57,013 showed up for the opener -- and many in attendance tweeted that it felt like it was less. Certainly there was a dull atmosphere.

But the Redskins' job is to win over the fans by winning at home. They failed again. While the defense wasn’t to blame -- not on a day where the offense generated so little -- they know improvement is a must.

“We’re gonna fix it right away,” Foster said. “You have to in this league. [Luck] didn’t overly wow you with certain plays, but he moved the ball when the situation counted.”