The Washington Redskins aren't quite ready to contend.
They finally have a quarterback and offense to beat anyone, but the defense simply stinks. There's no rationalizing it, no pretending injuries are the difference. The defense just isn't getting it done.
Potential game-winning drives led by quarterback Robert Griffin III don't matter if the Redskins' defense can't stop the New York Giants' Eli Manning from one-upping him. The 27-23 loss to New York on Sunday showed exactly why Washington isn't going to make a significant impact this season.
Indeed, the Redskins are looking an awful lot like their 1960s predecessors. The Redskins' offense was tremendous behind Pro Football Hall of Famers Sonny Jurgensen, Charley Taylor and Bobby Mitchell, but they couldn't overcome an awful defense until coach Vince Lombardi's 1969 arrival.
The Redskins have no secondary, at least not one that can withstand three straight downs. It can't stop big-play quarterback-receiver combinations, especially a two-time Super Bowl MVP passer with 24 career comeback wins.
Watching three Redskins chase Giants receiver Victor Cruz on his 77-yard, game-winning touchdown epitomizes this season. The secondary can claim the weak pass rush hurts, but the unit just doesn't make big plays. Cornerback DeAngelo Hall is always yapping but rarely backs it up.
Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett has gambled often in his three seasons, but there was no reason for a blitz on third-and-15 late against a veteran like Manning. The Giants nailed an 18-yard conversion. Haslett misses his two safeties and Pro Bowl linebacker, but the NFL is all about adapting and reacting. The Redskins never seem to do so.
Not that the defense lost the game alone. Griffin finally had a big turnover day with an interception and fumble. The upside was Griffin drove the Redskins for a touchdown that gave them a three-point lead with 1:32 remaining.
Tight end Fred Davis' illegal shift cost the Redskins four points on the first drive by negating Joshua Morgan's 34-yard touchdown reception. Instead, Washington settled for a field goal. Davis soon suffered a season-ending Achilles tendon tear.
Offensive tackle Tyler Polumbus' personal foul also hurt a scoring chance in the third quarter, turning Alfred Morris' 16-yard run to the New York 12 into a first-and-23 at the 41. Morris fumbled the next snap.
Little things always became big problems.
The cure won't come this season, though. Washington is slowly losing key personnel. Davis was the Redskins' top receiver, so a position once flush with talent is now average. Linebacker London Fletcher probably will play with a hamstring problem, but it will impact his effort. Fletcher is the core of the defense, so anything less than his usual 100 percent ripples through the unit.
"It's hard to know what to think but keep pushing forward and move on to the next week," Griffin told reporters.
Next week would be the Pittsburgh Steelers, whom the Redskins haven't beaten since 1991.