When Washington's offense puts his defense in tough positions because of turnovers or missed kicks, coordinator Jack Del Rio doesn't pity his unit. Rather, he expects them to help "put the fire out," as he explained last Wednesday.
Lately, they've merely contributed to the flames.
And on Sunday, the theme of the defense failing to pick up the offense continued.
In the first quarter of Washington's loss against the Ravens, JD McKissic was stripped and Baltimore recovered the fumble.
The Ravens needed just two plays to convert that bonus possession into a touchdown.
Then, in the second quarter, Dustin Hopkins' 54-yard field goal clanked off the left upright.
Lamar Jackson ripped off a 50-yard six-pointer just a few snaps later.
Those two failures came a week after three Dwayne Haskins interceptions became three Browns touchdowns and a Haskins fumble turned into a Cleveland field goal.
In the loss to Arizona, meanwhile, a botched Steven Sims punt return resulted in a Cardinals TD, and in the opener, Hopkins' other missed field goal on the year led to an Eagles scoring strike.
It's not completely fair to criticize Del Rio's side of the ball for not stepping up in each of those situations. In Cleveland, for example, all of Haskins' picks set the Browns up on incredibly short fields. McKissic's fumble in Week 4 did the same for Baltimore. They're not going to be able to hold up every single time, especially when they're already backed up against their own end zone.
However, this group was supposed to be Washington's strongest. It was touted as one that could get to any quarterback and throw off most gameplans. Therefore, it's not outrageous to ask them to at least hold their opponents to more field goal attempts when they have to scramble back into action, and on occasion, keep the scoreboard exactly the way it was when they initially had to scramble.
Through four contests, the Burgundy and Gold have made a lot of mistakes, and too often, their mistakes are then compounded by ineffective defensive play. Those kinds of momentum shifts cause their deficits to grow rapidly, and their offense isn't constructed to thrive in that adversity.
“I think we need to understand that’s an opportunity to take a stand," Del Rio said last week regarding quick changes. "To me, we need to look at it that way and not like: ‘Oh man, here we go,’ trying to find energy because we don’t have it. I think we need to respond, come out and respond well. I’m looking for us to do that better as we face those kinds of challenges.”
On Sunday, they weren't better like Del Rio wanted. They faced two fires, and both fires were too much for them. Until they tighten up, Washington will continue to get burned.