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'Skins D has made big strides

ASHBURN, Va. — At the midpoint of the season, the Redskins defense was on pace to become the first ever to allow 5,000 passing yards.

But the transformation under coordinator Jim Haslett has been so big, he has been dubbed "the mad scientist" as the unit has helped spark a six-game win streak.

"These game plans that Haz has come up with have been, if not the reason, a major reason why we've been so successful on defense in getting these wins and sealing these games," CB Josh Wilson said Friday. "Sometimes, you don't understand what a mad scientist is doing. But in the end, you look back on it and say, 'Oh, that was an amazing call. I don't know how he knew to do that.' "

Playing without three injured starters — DE Brian Orakpo, DE Adam Carriker and S Brandon Meriweather — for most of the season, Haslett has surprised opponents with a variety of blitzes and coverages.

Quarterbacks had a 95 passer rating against the Redskins over the first eight games. It has been 78.2 over the past eight. Points allowed dropped from 28.4 to 20.1. Washington is still ranked 30th in passing yards, prompting Haslett to say recently, "Our passing stats stink," but the trend is in the right direction.

"Everybody loses players," Haslett said. "We just happened to lose a whole bunch at one time. And then we were kind of lost for a little while, trying to find our way. We worked a number of different combinations to get where we're at. It took us a little more time than we would have liked. But obviously, it worked out for the best."

More Redskins: Starting LG Kory Lichten­steiger missed his third consecutive practice with a sprained left ankle. If he can't go, rookie Josh LeRibeus, a third-round pick, will start.

Warming up: The fabled tundra of the Packers' Lambeau Field will be far from frozen tonight. Temperatures are expected to be in the teens at kickoff. But a new underground heating system will keep the turf from freezing. It includes a network of plastic pipes containing antifreeze and a foot of sand. Even if the temperature drops to zero and winds reach 15 mph, the field will stay at 55 degrees.

Falcons: CB Dunta Robinson, who sustained a concussion Sunday against the Bucs, was cleared to practice.

Vikings: QB Christian Ponder and CB Antoine Winfield were listed as questionable but are expected to play. Ponder bruised his right elbow Sunday when it hit a helmet on a pass. Winfield has a broken right hand but will wear a cast.

Seahawks: CB Brandon Browner is expected to start despite returning from his four-game suspension for taking a performance-enhancing substance on Monday.

'Skins D has made big strides 01/04/13 [Last modified: Friday, January 4, 2013 9:32pm]

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