The last two games, the Redskins have been able to get to the opposing quarterback early. London Fletcher sacked the Lions’ Matthew Stafford on the very first snap from scrimmage last Sunday. In Green Bay a week before that Ryan Kerrigan got to Aaron Rodgers on two consecutive snaps to stop the Packers’ first drive to the end zone and then Brian Orakpo sacked Rodgers on the first play of the next drive.
But, in both games that was it as far as sacks go. The offenses focused on getting rid of the ball quicker, before Orakpo or Kerrigan or any of the other pass rushers were able to get to the quarterback.
“It's a different game,” said Orakpo. “You get to the quick game you eliminate the pass rush, you eliminate the guys up front.”
It’s not as though the Redskins’ pass-rushing duo has been totally silent. According to Pro Football Focus, Orakpo has 13 quarterback pressures to go with his one sack and Kerrigan has three sacks, seven pressures, and has knocked down two passes.
On some plays, the knock down might be the best outcome the defense can hope for.
“We're trying to get there before one hitch,” said Kerrigan. “That's all you really can do is that or get your hands up as quick as you can because when the ball's coming out so quick you're kind of limited in your options. You either have to get there right now or you have to get your hands up to knock a ball down.”
One way to help out can be to get some push up the middle with Barry Cofield leading the charge and perhaps an inside linebacker getting in on a stunt.
“It becomes a timing thing,” said Orakpo. “You can get so much push but at the end of the day the ball is coming out.”
Another key to being able to defend the quick passing game is through sure tackling by the players in coverage. If you can force the other team to dink and dunk its way down the field they eventually will commit a penalty or a turnover or something else to kill the drive.
But although the Redskins’ tackling was somewhat better against the Lions than it was the previous two weeks (13 missed tackles vs. a combined 30 in the first two games) it remained a major issue. Add in misplays such as David Amerson’s decision to play the ball rather than the receiver that led a long gain by Nate Burleson and the short passing game served he Lions well.