The home locker room at FedEx Field began filling up 10 minutes after the Washington Redskins knocked of the Philadelphia Eagles for their fourth straight win. Players joyously recapped the key moments and swapped war stories while extricating themselves from shoulder pads and athletic tape. Team officials walked around offering various form of congratulations as media members with cameras and recorders entered the scene. The victory wasn't just the latest triumph, but arguably the most complete performance of the season especially on the defensive side of the ball. Philadelphia's offense never found the end zone.
"Things are starting to come together," one member of the organization said amid the happy before offering a big picture caveat. "We still have issues stopping the run..."
That's an understatement. During the impressive winning streak -- only Dallas and Minnesota currently have won more than four in a row -- the Redskins run defense has been historically brutal.
Over the previous four games, Washington has allowed at least 94 rushing yards in each contest and 495 yards overall on 89 carries. That's 5.56 yards per attempt. That ranks last among all NFL teams in that stretch, according to the website Pro Football Reference. Washington ranks last in the NFL overall at 5.0 yards per carry.
Now let's get to the historic part. Hang with me as the explanation is a bit cumbersome.
Since the NFL merger in 1970, 74 teams have won at least four straight games in one season while allowing at least 94 rush yards in each contest. That amount of yards on the ground isn't ideal, but in some cases it required lots of carries from the opponent. Of all those teams -- including some that played more than four games -- the 89 attempts by Washington opponents are the fewest.
When we circle back to the yards per carry average, that's where we see the issue. Of those 74 defenses, the Redskins have the fourth worst yards per carry average, ranked only behind the 2013 Chiefs (6.0), 2004 Colts (5.74) and the 2015 Bengals (5.69).
Washington actually improved against Philadelphia. When they ran, the Eagles averaged 4.5 yards per carry. That's better than the season overall for the locals, but that average for all of 2016 would still rank the Redskins' defense 25th.
Now, some good news: Those three teams with a worst YPC average than these streaking Redskins all made the playoffs. The bad news? None of them won a playoff game.
The Browns were running all over the Redskins before fumbling away their chances. The Ravens fired their offensive coordinator one day after Baltimore abandoned the run against Washington despite early success. The Eagles barely had possession in the first half and trailed throughout after halftime, leading to only 21 carries.
Better teams, like the kind one meets in the postseason, or those with a lead will likely not pass up chances to attack Washington's defensive weakness. Three of the top seven teams in rush attempts (Dallas, Arizona, Carolina) remain on the the Redskins' schedule.
The playoffs are a ways off. We'll see if the Redskins get there and if they do, whether their run defense is coming together.
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