The Washington Redskins are no longer a team that will sneak up on opponents. Not only is it the reigning NFC East champion, but Washington has a superstar quarterback and boasts one of the most lethal running games in the NFL.
After falling into an 0-2 hole, however, it'd be unfair for quarterback Robert Griffin III to receive the blame for Washington's struggles.
After falling 33-27 to the Philadelphia Eagles during Week 1, the Redskins lost 38-20 to the Green Bay Packers in Week 2. This was the second consecutive week in which Washington faced a large first-half deficit, trailing 24-0 after two and 38-7 after three quarters against the Packers.
In turn, the Redskins fall into a potentially devastating hole.
He hasn't been perfect, but Griffin III isn't the reason for Washington's shortcomings.
RG3 has thrown for 649 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions through the first two games of the 2013 regular season. He's completed 62.9 percent of his passes and run for 25 yards on nine carries, sliding and going out of bounds in a more-willing manner than last season.
Just don't let those numbers fool you—it hasn't been pretty.
Griffin has displayed clear signs of rust during the first half of both of Washington's first two games. His passes have been less accurate than desirable, and his production has come during the second half of outings that have already been decided.
Even still, Griffin III isn't the one who deserves to shoulder the blame—not all of it.
The Redskins may be struggling to put up points early in games, but that doesn't take the defense off the hook. Washington has allowed a combined 71 points through two games, building a deficit that the offense couldn't overcome.
The offense may not be innocent here, but 71 points allowed after two games is a telling number.
Not only has Washington's defense allowed an obscene amount of points, but it's been poor against both the pass and run. Against the Eagles, known-to-be-inaccurate quarterback Michael Vick was 15-of-25 for 203 yards and two touchdowns, throwing zero interceptions.
Those may not be lofty numbers, but after watching Vick dominate the defense by throwing the football, it became clear that Washington had questions to answer.
To make matters worse, LeSean McCoy ran for 184 yards, and the Eagles amassed an absurd 263 as a team. Both McCoy and Vick ran for touchdowns, and when it was all said and done, the Redskins defense was exposed.
Matched up against the Packers, it didn't get much prettier for Washington.
Aaron Rodgers was 34-of-42 for 480 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. It was an encouraging effort by the Redskins when rushing the quarterback, tallying four sacks and six quarterback hits, but the team inevitably failed to receive a competent effort from the secondary.
Washington was just as ugly against the run.
Going up against a team that lost its starting running back after one carry, the Redskins allowed 139 yards on the ground. James Starks carried it 20 times for 132 yards and a score, marking his first game with at least 100 yards since Jan. 9, 2011.
If that's not enough, punter Sav Rocca is averaging 38.8 yards per attempt through two games, giving opponents dream-like field position. No matter which way you cut it, the Redskins aren't playing a quality brand of football.
It's as if we're watching a different team from the one we saw last season.
The question is, how can Washington turn things around?
The Redskins defense won't receive a moment to breathe, as they play the Detroit Lions in Washington during Week 3. Matched up against Reggie Bush, Calvin Johnson and Matthew Stafford, there is a legitimate possibility that we see a defensive repeat of what has transpired against the Eagles and Packers.
That's where Griffin comes in.
As the franchise quarterback, it's on RG3 to step up and lead Washington to victories in must-win games. Facing the possibility of becoming 0-3, this is as close to a must-win scenario as you'll find in the NFL, as Washington is competing in a deep NFC.
Regardless of how the NFC East is shaping up, 0-3 would create a path to the postseason that even RG3 would struggle to follow.
If the Redskins are to defeat the Lions, Griffin III must avoid another slow start. His chemistry with Pierre Garcon should help, but until we see the reigning Rookie of the Year step up and produce, we're inclined to stray on the side of doubt.
His total numbers are lofty, but easing into games isn't an option with Washington's defense performing so poorly.
If RG3 is able to get the passing game going early, running back Alfred Morris will be given room to run, and Washington can put up points with the best of them. As a result, 1-2 would be attainable, and Griffin III would temporarily put a pause on the criticisms.
While he may not be the one to blame, RG3 must continue to be the savior in Washington if the Redskins are to stand any chance at making the playoffs.
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