A football team is supposed to forget about last week’s game quickly whether it was a win or a loss. But there were members of the Redskins’ defensive line who were still stewing over the fact that the Falcons’ Devonta Freeman ran over them for 153 yards in Atlanta’s win in the Georgia Dome last Sunday.
Actually, as far as the line is concerned, Freeman ran around them.
“They were going to try to neutralize the inside guys, get outside and force our safeties and our corners to make the tackle,” said nose tackle Terrance Knighton. “A fun game is when I actually get to hit a guy. If you look on the stat sheet, Freeman, he ran outside a lot.”
Freeman averaged 5.6 yards on 13 carries going off tackle or around end so Knighton was essentially take out of the play on half of Freeman’s runs.
End Jason Hatcher believes that the entire rushing defense was just totally out of sorts.
“Our fits [were] off. We were all out of gaps,” said Hatcher. “I take responsibility first and foremost and use in the D-line, we were all over the place because our fits [were] off. We’ve just got to go back to playing fundamentally sound football in our gaps where we’re supposed to be. Then it’s hard to run on us.”
Defensive coordinator Joe Barry said that the defense was prepared to concede some rushing yards to the Falcons in order to devote more resources to stopping the Matt Ryan-led passing attack.
“I pointed out to the guys, there was about 60 yards – what’d they rush for, 150? – we kind of said, ‘Hey, if we could’ve gotten out of there with between 95 and 105 yards against that offense with what we had to do with the quarterback and the wideout [Julio Jones], we would have been pretty satisfied,’” said Barry. “But there was about 60 yards of rushing that was on us. Everyone agreed. We knew we were going to have to give up a little bit in the run just to do the job that we had to do in the passing game. It was still, like I said, about 60 yards too much.”
Whether the Redskins would have won if they had “only” given up 100 yards rushing to Freeman is a matter of sheer speculation. They did do a fairly good job against Ryan, as they held him to 57 percent completions, 6.0 yards per attempt, sacked him three times, and picked him off twice.
Still, the players on the line were unhappy with the result.
“Every week we emphasize the run,” said Hatcher. “You’ve got to stop the run. You get pissed off in a sense. We take pride in stopping the run. When a guy gets over 100 yards you definitely put emphasis on it yourself as a defense, individually. We’ve just got to keep going.”
They will keep going this week against the Jets, who feature running back Chris Ivory. He has averaged over 104 yards per game on the ground. New York has a different style of running game.
“It’s going to be an inside run kind of game,” said Knighton. “It’s going to be challenging because of how strong [Ivory] is, he breaks a lot of tackles. I think it’s going to be a challenge but it’s right up our alley.”
“They’re going to challenge guys like me and Bake [DE Chris Baker] in the middle.”
If Baker, Knight, Hatcher and company are up to the challenge and can return to the run-stopping form they displayed in the first four games, when no opposing team rushed for over 100 yards against them, you have to like their chances of keeping it close. Even against a secondary that could be somewhat depleted by injuries it seems unlikely that quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick will light up the Washington defense.