Washington was in a battle with a desperate Arizona team on their last breath as they fought for a possible wild card berth. A tough matchup for the Skins for sure, as the offense faced off against the top defensive unit in the league. Washington’s defense faced elite talents at both receiver and running back, a decent distributor in Carson Palmer.
The offense had their issues throughout the game for sure, but football is a team game and for many reasons the defense of Washington put the pressure on the team’s offense to win the game. This is nothing new, but it’s proving to be a costly formula to win games. Last week against Dallas, the offense had a slow start and forced them to play catch-up game long, coming within one possession multiple times. The defense failed to make critical stops or force turnovers as Dallas walked away with a victory. It was more of the same against Arizona, as they failed to make the key stops. A win would of helped Washington secure the sixth seed in the NFC Playoff picture.
The defense gave up 21 points in the second half to the Cardinals, each score came off what would of been go-ahead scores from the Redskins offense. The Cousins touchdown run was the only time Washington scored in the second half in which the Cardinals did not respond with a score of their own. Even on that one occasion, Arizona was in position, only to miss a field goal. It should be fair to note that the offense did them no favors giving up a turnover immediately after the missed field goal, however the makings of a winning team and defense is making critical stops when your team needs them.
As Washington cut the lead to one point with just under five minutes left in the fourth quarter, the pressure was on their defense to make a crucial stop. The Cardinals faced two third down situations and one fourth down on that drive. They would convert on all three, finishing the drive off with a 42-yard touchdown pass to stretch the lead to eight. The hardest part of that drive to accept is that it was Arizona’s two most dangerous players making things happen. The Redskins couldn’t contain either Larry Fitzgerald or David Johnson. This has been a season long issue for Washington, the offense of Washington takes leads in games and their defense is incapable of getting the opposing offense off of the field.
The Cardinals won the time of possession 33 minutes to 26 minutes as well as the the turnover battle. Arizona converted 63% of their third downs and four of their conversions were 10 yards or more. It is almost impossible to win football games with a defense who makes third and longs look no different than third and inches for opposing offenses. There’s numerous reasons for these issues, lack of constant pressure, lack of discipline in secondary, and inconsistency with play calling and matchups.
These are issues that need to be addressed with the last month of the season as the team fights for a wildcard spot. It can be made through personnel changes and being more aggressive on the defensive side of the ball, specifically play calls from defensive coordinator Joe Barry. In crucial situations, Arizona attacked the passer, Washington did not and it showed in the conversion percentage. However, it is highly improbable the Redskins make the playoffs with a defense that is incapable of helping an offense out. As the offense clearly cannot shoulder the load week in and out for this team.