Washington Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett and head coach Mike Shanahan during a preseason practice at Redskins Park.
The Washington Redskins won the NFC East title in 2012 despite six losses for a combined 44 points—a seven-and-a-half point average per loss. While the 'Skins defense have taken a lot of heat, they ranked in the top half of the NFL in many defensive categories.
The problem is they also ranked near the bottom in the more important categories.
In the half dozen losing efforts, it may very well have been the defense that kept the games close, as all but one game found the Redskins within a touchdown and conversion of tying or winning the game.
The Redskins' base 3-4 defense stepped up their level of play during the team's seven-game winning streak to end the regular season—although the team's defense finished 28th overall in total defense and third in their division, allowing 377.7 yards per game.
The 'Skins pass defense ranked 30th in the NFL (281.9 yards per game) and 31st overall in touchdowns allowed (31). The defense finished last in the NFL in third-down conversions allowed—an alarming 44.2 percent. Those were the low points on defense.
The mid-range ranks within the league found the Redskins 22nd in points allowed with 24.3 points per game, putting them second in the NFC East behind the New York Giants. The team ranked 24th in sacks with 32, led by linebacker Ryan Kerrigan with 8.5 sacks in 2012.
The first half of the season included six losses in nine games, and the common theme on both sides of the ball seemed to be penalties, especially at key moments in the game.
Despite the penalties, the team finished a respectable 13th in the NFL in defensive penalties with 100, second fewest in the NFC East behind the Dallas Cowboys.
Statistically speaking, the Redskins defense had their strongest showing in rushing yards allowed—95.8 yards per game, which was good for fifth overall in the league and best in the NFC East.
Lastly, the Redskins defense ranked near the top in takeaways, a combination of interceptions and fumbles recovered, with 31 total—21 interceptions and 10 fumbles. That placed them fifth in the NFL and second behind the New York Giants in the division. The team was led by linebacker London Fletcher with five interceptions.
With much being made of the defense and, more specifically, the secondary in the offseason, there certainly are areas that need a vast overhaul or at a minimum, some new talent in key defensive positions.
The defense was hamstrung by some injures throughout the year, and to their credit, the replacements filled in sufficiently.
Overall, take a look at the team's margin of loss in their six games:
Week 2: Three-point loss to St. Louis Rams, 31-28.
Week 3: Seven-point loss to Cincinnati Bengals, 38-31.
Week 5: Seven-point loss to Atlanta Falcons, 24-17.
Week 7: Four-point loss to New York Giants, 27-23.
Week 8: 15-point loss to Pittsburgh Steelers, 27-12.
Week 9: Eight-point loss to Carolina Panthers, 21-13.
A loss is a loss, but a blowout is exactly that. The team has enough of a foundation to build upon their 10-6 record in 2012, and with some key players returning from injuries, free agency and the NFL draft, the team has much to look forward to in 2013.
*Statistical data courtesy of ESPN.com