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WFT Daily: It's All About Gap Control

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The Washington Football Team's defense huddles together before the New York Giants run a play on Nov. 10, 2020. (Elijah Walter Griffin Sr./Washington Football Team)

The 2020 season is here, and we have you covered as the Washington Football Team progresses through its inaugural campaign under head coach Ron Rivera. Stay up to date with "WFT Daily," which comes out every weekday evening.

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The New York Giants ranked 27th in rushing offense heading into Sunday's matchup against the Washington Football Team, but no one would have guessed that based on their performance in a 23-20 win at FedExField.

Despite being without starting running back Devonta Freeman, the Giants ran for 166 yards and a touchdown on 35 attempts. Backups Wayne Gallman and Alfred Morris rushed for a combined 135 yards and helped the team average 4.7 yards per attempt.

Washington, which ranks 23rd against the run, allowed the Giants to play well above their average of 98.5 yards per game. The key to the defensive breakdown, head coach Ron Rivera said after the game, was issues with gap control.

"We had a couple guys that got knocked out of the gap," he said. "We had a couple guys that were late to their gap. As we get a chance to watch the tape and really see who, why and how, those things will be worked on and corrected."

The lapses were noticeable on the first drive of the game. On a 2nd-and-4, Gallman burst up the middle for a seven-yard run and wasn't touched until he reached the first-down marker. Then, after the Giants recovered a muffed punt, Gallman ran untouched up the middle for a two-yard score.

"You have to tip your hats to them," linebacker Jon Bostic said after the game. "They were doing some good things offensively that we haven't seen before. But at the end of the day, we still have to go make those plays. We've got to make those corrections on the sideline. When we make those corrections on the sideline, we have to make sure we go out and execute what we are being coached on."

The biggest errors came in the second quarter when Morris broke off a 20-yard run down the right sideline followed by a 12-yard rumble up the middle.

Rivera had an easy solution to the problem: players need to buy into the system and learn their responsibilities.

"You get into your crease and you hold your crease," he said. "As we work our way vertically to the quarterback and there's a run, you become disruptive. That's the thing that we have to do and what we've got to do to be successful as a football team."

Washington is certainly capable of playing better; it held the Philadelphia Eagles to 57 rushing yards in Week 1 and the Dallas Cowboys to 83 yards in Week 7. It will have a chance to improve against the Detroit Lions, who rank 24th in rushing offense.

The caveat is that the defense will be facing former Washington running back Adrian Peterson, who knows the defense well. The 35-year-old back currently has 350 yards on 93 attempts and played well in training camp before being released. Washington will need a good week of practice to prepare for the future Hall of Famer.

"The nice thing about the style of defense we play is when you play gap control, you know where the ball's going," Rivera said. "You can basically see who's not doing their job. It's a thing that we've got to try to get corrected and make sure we're doing our job."

Quick Hits

-- Terry McLaurin breaks down his touchdown: Washington faced a 1st-and-10 from its own 32-yard line when Alex Smith took the snap for the third play of the drive. McLaurin, lined up as the right slot receiver, ran a drag route and turned his head before Smith fired the ball in his direction. The pass was delivered in tight coverage, so he didn't expect to break free once he made the catch, but he was able to slide out of defensive back Isaac Yiadom's tackle, allowing him to sprint for the end zone on a 68-yard score.

"It was a play that we've been practicing. It's been in our playbook since day one. ...Shoutout to Isaiah [Wright] and the other receivers. They kept fighting to give me an open lane to run for a touchdown. That was a big play for us. Alex gave me a chance, and that's all I can ask for."

-- Jon Bostic knows the defense isn't playing good enough: Bostic knew it without Rivera having to mention it after the game: the way the defense played against the Giants was not good enough. The unit only allowed three points in the second half, but that was after it had spotted New York a 20-3 halftime lead. Everyone has to play better, he said, and that means playing consistently for the entire game.

"For us, as a team, we know we're right there. We can't keep talking about it. We have to make sure when we're putting this preparation in during the week [that] we are practicing hard. We love the way we're practicing. We just have to make those plays in the game when the time comes."

-- Winning the turnover battle: Washington committed five turnovers against the Giants, four of which came from the offense. That is not a formula that will lead to wins, but Bostic said the defense has to do its part as well. The unit has to force fumbles or interceptions, and for just the second time all season, Washington could not get either. Bostic knows that cannot happen.

"For us, we love to win the turnover battle. We lost that today. We didn't give our offense any type of momentum. [The Giants] did a good job on defense. They were turning the ball over, setting their offense up in good field position...and that creates momentum. And for us, we didn't do that for our offense. So that is definitely a reason why we lost this ball game."

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