Antonio Gibson runs the ball to the left against the Buffalo Bills on Sept. 26. (Photo courtesy Washington Football Team)
Antonio Gibson runs the ball to the left against the Buffalo Bills on Sept. 26. (Photo courtesy Washington Football Team)

Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen, coming into the Sept. 26 game against the visitors from the District, had not enjoyed a hot start to the season. Some were even thinking maybe he was in store for a down year.  

But Allen got healthy against the underachieving Washington defense.  In Buffalo’s opening possession when the Bills converted a third down and 15 yards into a first down to keep the drive alive, that was a tell-tale sign of what was to come.  Buffalo scored a touchdown on their first drive.   Washington has allowed opening drive touchdowns in every game this season.  

Washington Football Team Head Coach Ron Rivera labeled this game a chance for the team to measure themselves against an elite team in the league.  The WFT did not measure up.  Their defense that came into the season with big expectations and headlines and has so far been a case of over promise and under delivering. 

Now the team is near the bottom of the league in almost every statistic, not just defensively but offensively.   Struggles were expected with veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick being new to Offensive Coordinator Scott Turner’s scheme. When he went out, everyone knew there would be growing pains with Taylor Heinicke, entering his fourth professional season, as the temporary fill-in quarterback. 

But no one expected the defense to routinely give up 300 yards to every passer that walked through the door, and give up the 40 points that they surrendered to the Bills.

 So what is the issue exactly?  How does the Washington Football Team correct these issues to get better and be more competitive?  First they have to get teams off the field on third down.   Turnovers and flashy plays like sacks and big tackles for loss may not always materialize.  But when they are put in ideal situations like third and long, your defense must make a play to get off the field and give your offense more opportunities to score, and keep the other teams off the board.   So far this season the Washington Football Team’s defense has not been able to answer that call.  

Taylor Heinicke is also going through growing pains as the team’s long term fill in.   Heinicke threw two interceptions, made some ill-advised throws and took unnecessary hits when he should have thrown the ball away.  While the defense has been hammered publicly about their struggles on third down, the offense was also anemic on third down on Sunday converting only 2 chances out of a 11 for a conversion rate of 18 percent.  

You can’t win any games by giving the football back nine times in 11 drives.  The Bills had 29 first downs compared to 13 by the WFT.   Buffalo also held the ball for 35 minutes, that’s nine minutes longer than Washington.

Where do we go from here?  Can the front four figure out how to get pressure on the quarterback?   Can Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio scheme a way to help create some big plays?  Do they need to blitz more?  Can the linebackers communicate better and be better in coverage?  The secondary has struggled in man coverage and in zone coverage, a pass rush would certainly help make the job of defense easier.  The team can’t depend on corners to cover receivers for four or five seconds.  Lots of questions that need answering for Rivera and the Washington Football Team.   If the team has any designs for  salvaging the season and competing for the division once again it has to start next Sunday in Atlanta.

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WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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