“I thought our defense would be the strength of our football team,” said Coach Mike Shanahan, who’s watched that unit give up 101 points. “We have more depth than in the past, so there are no excuses not to get better. We just didn’t get it done today.”
Even by the standards of NFL-speak, that’s understatement. The Redskins’ badly injured defense has valid excuses for the weekly incinerations it now suffers.
You can’t hide the obvious. The Redskins, so far, can’t . . . stop . . . anybody. And on long pass plays, they sometimes can’t . . . touch . . . anybody. Their defensive backs are in danger of breaking the pathetic meter. Cincinnati gained a staggering 478 yards. How bad is it to give the Bengals 478 yards? They’ve only done it once in their previous 80 games.
The Bengals scored on touchdown strikes of 73, 48 and 59 yards on which no defender so much as touched the receiver after the catch. Perhaps none made contact before the passes were thrown either. We’ll have to watch the tape.
The Redskins get credit for battling back from a 24-7 second- quarter deficit to tie the score at 24 with more than 20 minutes left. But the uncomfortable reality is that when the Bengals needed to score — early in the game to build that lead and late in the contest to pull away — they put together drives of 73, 68 and 68 yards in the first half, then touchdown marches of 73 and 72 yards in their first two possessions of the fourth quarter.
Such games mean that the quarterback of the trailing team must become an even more central part of the offense. He has to take every risk, improvise and symbolize the team’s will to win. The Redskins couldn’t have a better man for the job than Robert Griffin III — if you can get your heart out of your throat hoping he survives until the Redskins have a team worth putting around him.
Griffin will produce some thrilling wins, even as an underdog on the road, as he did in New Orleans against the now 0-3 Saints, but he’s constantly going to play on the edge of disaster, too. Right now, he’s reliving the early years of the Sonny Jurgensen era of the 1960s, when the redhead made Washington entertaining, but often got belted all day, seldom beat good teams and was 30-38-3 his first five years in D.C. But Jurgensen had Hall of Fame skill-position players to help him and never had to run two yards.