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Turnovers: Hard to Come By This Season

Shawn Springs jarred the ball loose from the arms of wide receiver Reggie Brown. Finally, a chance for a turnover--the first for the Redskins since Week 4 against Jacksonville. Kenny Wright was close by and seemed poised to recover the fumble.

Not so fast. Seemingly out of nowhere, running back Correll Buckhalter caught the fumble in mid-air and raced past Wright and safety Sean Taylor for a touchdown.

In terms of forcing turnovers, that's the way it's gone for the Redskins' defense this season.

Just ask Marcus Washington. In the first quarter of Sunday's 27-3 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, he dropped a sure interception. It was his second dropped interception in three games; he also dropped one against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 7.

"It's hard to explain why it's happening," Washington said. "We just have to capitalize on opportunities better."

In the third quarter, the Redskins appeared to capitalize on an Eagles' turnover in what potentially was a momentum-changing play.

Running back Brian Westbrook caught a 13-yard pass from a scrambling Donovan McNabb at the Redskins' 2-yard line, but the ball appeared to slip loose from Wesbtrook's hands. The apparent fumble was recovered by Lemar Marshall.

Referees ruled that Westbrook was down by contact, but television replays showed that he fumbled the ball before he was touched by a Redskins defender. The Redskins challenged the play, but officials upheld the ruling on the field.

Head coach Joe Gibbs and assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams were fuming on the sidelines.

"For sure, we felt like he got off the ground before we touched him and he fumbled," Gibbs said. "That's the way we saw it. But that was just one play, too."

Washington has not forced a fumble or an interception since the Jacksonville game. The Redskins forced two turnovers that game: Phillip Daniels intercepted a Byron Leftwich pass and Khary Campbell forced a fumble on a punt return.

For the season, the Redskins have just two interceptions--Kenny Wright has the other one--and three forced fumbles.

The NFL record for fewest forced turnovers by a defense is 11, set by the Baltimore Colts in 1982.

Consider that in 1983, Gibbs's Redskins forced a team-record 61 turnovers, the third-most in NFL history. That team had a team-record 34 interceptions.

Williams has been asked about the dearth of turnovers seemingly every week in his media session with reporters. The defense continues to work on interception drills, tip drills and fumble drills during practice, he said.

"You can't stop working on them," Williams said. "What you do is, when they get a chance to see their body in position [for a turnover] or see their body with the missed opportunity, then it is on them and on us to continue to create drills and create opportunities in practice to slow their heartbeat down and make a play."

The lack of turnovers has almost certainly played a role in the Redskins' overall defensive ranking, which is 30th in the NFL.

"A lot of the times, when you take the ball away, you stop some of the field position [disadvantages]," Williams said. "You stop the number of plays that are going on during that particular series. You end a series that maybe had another 50-60 yards or a touchdown on that particular drive."

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