The Washington Redskins defense knew that it needed to stop allowing big plays. On Sunday's opening play, Cincinnati wide receiver Mohamed Sanu lined up in the Wildcat formation. So, safety Madieu Williams crept toward the line of scrimmage. Now, no defender was more than seven yards from the ball, and the defense readied itself for a run.
Instead, it became a chase. And no Redskin defender could catch Cincinnati wide receiver A.J. Green, who caught a 73-yard touchdown pass, establishing the tone and ruining the home opener. In the Redskins 38-31 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals (2-1) at FedEx Field on Sunday, big plays given up by the defense continued to be a problem, just like they were in the first two games.
"I thought the defense was going to be the strength of our team," Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said.
Instead, the defense has become a glaring weakness. In each of the first three games, the Redskins have allowed a minimum of 300 yards passing. They gave up seven pass plays of at least 20 yards Sunday; they now have allowed 16 such gains this season. At that pace, they will allow 85. They gave up 58 in 2011.
No matter how you slice it, it comes up trouble for Washington (1-2). Finally, the Redskins have an offense capable of scoring. In three consecutive games they have scored at least 28 points. Yet, they are 1-2. In the past two years, a 31-point game would have been good enough to win a combined 23 games.
"We're way better than this," Redskins cornerback Josh Wilson said.
Perhaps they are, but they're not performing like it. And no one can blame it on injuries to starters Brian Orakpo and Adam Carriker. Linebacker Rob Johnson had three tackles for a loss and made a diving interception in the end zone for a touchdown in place of Orakpo. At defensive end, Kedric Golston and Jarvis Jenkins played solidly.
Instead, it was a secondary that wasn't helped by its coverage or by the pass rush. The first play of the game serves as a good example.
Linebacker London Fletcher waved up Williams, leaving safety DeJon Gomes one-on-one with Green. Gomes should have backed up more on the play. Green caught the ball at the Washington 30-yard line and scored untouched.
"We saw the middle of the field was wide open," Green said. "Once I was by him I saw I was wide open."