LANDOVER, Md. -- The Washington Redskins’ defenders let everyone know their displeasure about the officiating in their postgame comments on Sunday. After watching film on Monday, it will be time to direct their anger solely toward something else: themselves.
The Redskins’ defense, which had played well during a three-game winning streak, did not play its best game in Sunday’s 38-14 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. It was a steady stream of allowing the Falcons to convert on third-and-long and a run defense that suddenly allowed big cutback lanes. They sent pressure that didn’t affect quarterback Matt Ryan, who then could throw to Julio Jones in single coverage, for example, without help. Ryan was sacked twice; he attempted 38 passes.
The hard part for Washington’s defense: It must play at a high level to give the team a chance to win, thanks to an offense that hasn’t yet shown it can come from behind. That means any breakdowns or bad starts by the defense leads to a hole from which it's tough to escape. The Falcons jumped to a 14-0 lead and kept Washington off-balance.
That will be the challenge moving forward. Because of injuries, it appears the Redskins will have a makeshift offensive line for the second year in a row, and that will mean more pressure on the defense to keep them in games. Sunday's opponent, Tampa Bay, has scored 26 or more points in seven of their eight games.
The Redskins are built to emphasize a run game and defense. They haven’t proven they can win shootouts. Their defense has played well enough this season to bank positive thoughts, and that’s what they’re relying on now.
“You see me fretting?” corner Josh Norman told reporters afterward. “You see me worried? It’s a game. When’s the next one? I’m not going to go home and cry, nothing like that. I’ll be chillin' and worried about next week.”
The best thing the Redskins’ defenders can do is pay attention to second-year defensive lineman Jonathan Allen.
“You’ve got to have a short-term memory in the NFL,” he said. “You can’t make it a big ordeal when you lose, every single game. We’re going to look at the film, we’re going to move on, see what we could have done better as a defense and get ready for Tampa Bay.”
The Redskins entered with top-five rankings in total yards allowed, points and rushing yards. But on Sunday, they allowed season-worsts in yards (491), rushing yards (154) and yards per play (7.7). Atlanta ran well in pass situations: On second-and-10s, for example, the Falcons rushed eight times for 43 yards. They used the run-pass option game at times to hurt. At times the linebackers could not -- or did not -- attack the gaps because of play-action threats over the middle. That led to them being blocked and cutback lanes being created.
Atlanta converted 10 of 13 third downs, and eight of the successful plays came on third-and-6 or longer.
It’s not as if they completely blamed the loss on the officials in postgame interviews. But they weren’t shy at expressing their opinions. Perhaps on some plays, they had a point. But to be a consistent power on defense, blaming anyone but themselves will be unacceptable. They were upset about pick plays in the Falcons' passing game, but on most of the big plays in the first half, picks and rubs weren’t the issue.
“Oh, man, you can say that,” Redskins linebacker Zach Brown said of the missed calls. “Go back to the league and say, 'Oh, should have called this,' but it's too late now when it over. I feel if the refs aren’t gonna be calling it, they should get fined just like we can be fined. Certain plays it was clear as day, but they still didn’t call it. But at the end of the day, we've still got to find a way to get a W.”
That’s the lesson moving forward. The Redskins did not make Atlanta one-dimensional, something they have done to other teams in their five wins.
“That was tough for us. I don’t think any of us expected that,” Norman said. “They hit us in the face. When you get a test like this, you have to come up and stand up and we didn’t do that. That’s the beauty of it. When you get knocked down, it’s how you get back up from it. We have the guys on this team that can and will respond. We just have to take ownership of it and move on.”