Week 9 proved Washington's defense isn't as good as numbers say


The stats will tell you that the Washington Football Team's defense has been one of the NFL's very best in 2020. The unit has allowed the ninth-fewest points per game, the fifth-fewest total yards and the fewest passing yards in the league so far.

But to borrow a phrase that thousands of crusty fans have said throughout the years: The numbers don't tell the entire story.

Thanks to the additions of Jack Del Rio, Kendall Fuller and Chase Young and thanks to the emergence of guys like Montez Sweat and Kam Curl, the group is undoubtedly better than they were a season ago. 

However, are they a top, consistent and truly difference-making unit? Nope. And their effort against the Giants proves it. 

For the most part, the box score from the loss to New York is kind to Del Rio's side. The Giants scored 23 points overall and just three after halftime, while their quarterback threw for only 212 yards. By today's standards, those facts are all, on the surface, worthy of a victory.

Look elsewhere, though.

Daniel Jones has become a signal-caller who, if you ask politely enough, will just give you the ball. He's registered at least one turnover in 20 of his 22 career starts. 

The two times he miraculously put up a clean sheet? They both came at FedEx Field, with Sunday serving as the second. 

Then there was the run stoppers, who didn't do much run stopping. The Giants averaged 4.7 yards per carry, racked up 109 yards in the first half and used their ground attack to develop a huge advantage in the time of possession battle. 


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By the way, the backs who were responsible for all that success were Alfred Morris and Wayne Gallman. They're usually more of a one-two poke and not a one-two punch. Yet they did plenty of punching versus the Burgundy and Gold. 

The end of the matchup is where things got especially disheartening. 

After kicking a field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter to pull within 10 points, Morris ripped off a 20-yarder, Sweat handed the visitors another first down with a neutral zone infraction penalty and Big Blue was eventually able to punt the ball to the hosts’ 16-yard line. 

That would’ve been a prime spot for a turnover or three-and-out, but unfortunately, neither happened. 

Luckily, Alex Smith and Terry McLaurin’s 68-yard touchdown connection made up for that defensive letdown, and Washington cut their margin to three. Now was Del Rio and Co.’s chance to make amends. 

Except they didn’t. Instead, the Giants held the ball for more than five minutes, picked up a couple of first downs and punted it back to Washington’s 11. A couple of Smith interceptions would ultimately prevent the comeback from being completed. 

It would be wholly unfair to ignore how poorly Scott Turner’s offense began on Sunday, and how that put the defense at a sizable disadvantage in the first quarter. They were on the field a lot all day, really.

They also had to deal with a lot of quick changes due to Washington’s five turnovers. They can’t be expected to be clutch in every one of those situations.

However, it’s becoming obvious that they aren’t stepping up enough, regardless of the lack of help they’re receiving from their counterparts. 

The sacks are only appearing when facing bad opponents. The stops aren’t coming in the crucial moments. The clock keeps moving when they need it to halt. 

A quick examination of what the defense has produced this year would lead one to feel quite positive about their contributions, and those feelings aren’t totally unwarranted.

Just don’t take them too far, because the longer you evaluate how they’re performing, the more you realize they actually aren’t.