Defense, quarterback key Redskins

The offense generated the excitement, putting the Redskins in an unusual spot: the lead. But it's the defense that, until a few late drives, allowed Washington to stay there in a 26-21 win over Indianapolis.

It was the kind of game Washington could have played any of the past two weeks, had Shane Matthews been in place. His veteran savvy was noticeable as he eluded rushers, felt the blitz and got rid of the ball. His stats weren't pretty--he only completed 17 of 35 passes, but he was only sacked once and wasn't intercepted.

He was exactly what the Redskins needed.

And so, too, was the defense. That's what's been the best development over the past three weeks. Forget the points in the previous two losses--blame those on the offense, which constantly turned the ball over.

But Sunday night the Redskins allowed only two touchdown drives against a still-dangerous offense. It's a sign that the pieces are starting to fit. And it's clear that the players are not only starting to grasp Marvin Lewis' defense, they're starting to excel.

Jeremiah Trotter is playing relaxed, which is why he's made more of an impact the last game and a half (too silent in the first half against Green Bay). The other linebackers are making the types of plays everyone expected.

Tackle Daryl Gardener is more comfortable in this defense, which is why he lined up at right end in a three-man rush on one down Sunday.

And starting Ifeanyi Ohalete, something we advocated this summer, has paid off. Ohalete brings passion and excitement to a young, aggressive defense. He's fun to watch because he plays with so much energy and he makes plays.

Mostly, what you see is a defense that's been swarming to the ball for most of the past three games. That's a clear sign they feel comfortable. It's a clear sign they're headed in the right direction.

Before Sunday, Washington's playoff contention hopes were questionable. Now the Redskins enter the next three games knowing they can win, thanks to solid quarterback play and a defense that's climbed among the top 10. And is getting better.

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