- Donovan McNabb and Washington's passing game made strides, but the running game remains far behind. (Photo: Jay Westcott)
As Brian Orakpo said following his team's 30-27 overtime loss, the Redskins are “1-1 right now and we know could’ve very easily been 2-0.”
The Washington Redskins indeed should be 2-0 right now. A week after an impressive defensive performance received very little offensive support, the Redskins got the ball moving and held a 27-10 lead over the visiting Houston Texans late in the third quarter.
They couldn’t close out, however, and ended up losing in overtime. There are a number of reasons why. The offensive players blamed themselves, while the defensive players took credit for the loss as well. Here’s a look at four points that stand out from Sunday’s and one more aspect the Redskins need to address.
1.) The offense improved, but not enough
Donovan McNabb was nearly masterful, completing 28 of 38 passes to eight different receivers for 426 yards and a touchdown. He had two 62-yard passes, one to Joey Galloway, and one to Fred Davis. He would’ve had another bomb late in the game, but Galloway couldn’t hang on in the end zone. The killer, though, was three scoring drives that should’ve ended differently. Twice, Washington settled for field goals instead of getting touchdowns. A third time, a blocked field goal killed a red zone scoring opportunity.
2) The defense wore down
The defense allowed the Texans to move the ball, but through 2¾ quarters, the unit shut down its foe right when they needed to. But right after their team went 27-10 following a 22-yard touchdown strike from McNabb to Cooley, the defense appeared to lose it’s fire.
“We were right there where we should’ve been dominant,” said linebacker Lorenzo Alexander. “A dominant team would’ve kept their foot on their throat and just finished it out. We’ve got to learn how to finish games. There’s no way they should’ve come down and beat us. There were a couple of times where we should’ve gotten off the field on third down. That screen really hurt us when they were, like third-and-15, and Arian Foster went 50 yards to the 2, and they scored. If we had stopped them on third down, that would’ve never happened.”
3.) Williams injury could equal a big loss
Williams has been as good as advertised to this point. He did a fine job on DeMarcus Ware, and was getting the best of Mario Williams whenever the Texans defensive end lined up against him. But then, with time dwindling, and Washington needing a drive to at least a field goal, Trent Williams got hurt.
With Williams hurt, we got a glimpse what could be a scary next few weeks depending on the severity of Williams’ injury.
Stephon Heyer came in -- not really cold because he had been spelling Jammal Brown at the other tackle spot -- and immediately got flagged for holding, and struggled the rest of the way to match Mario Williams’ speed. The Redskins could be in trouble if Trent Williams is out for a while. Not only do they have Heyer, who is better suited for the right tackle, playing left tackle. But they also lose their backup right tackle. And with Brown still working his way back to the point where he can play a full game, that’s not a good thing.
4.) Was tonight good or bad for Albert Haynesworth?
Anthony Bryant did a nice job as the backup nose tackle, and it didn’t look like there was any drop-off at that position with Haynesworth out. Bryant had a hand in a sack -- forcing Schaub toward Adam Carriker -- and he had the middle of the line clogged, making it difficult for Houston to run.
Given the time that Schaub had on some of those plays when he was able to extend plays, you can ask the question of, could the Redskins have used Haynesworth. Bryant did as good a job as you could ask for at NT, but would Haynesworth have been able to be more disruptive at the end position? Or, given how unreliable the big fella has been, maybe the argument could be made that through three quarters, the unit played just fine with out him, and that the Redskins don't relaly need him.
One to chew on . . .
It’s painfully obvious that the Redskins need the running game to get going. With the team up heading into the fourth quarter, you want to be able to give the ball to your running back and let him grind out tough yardage and eat up clock.
But after three quarters, Washington had only 13 rushing yards on 11 carries. That was only three more yards and one more carry than the Redskins had at halftime. The Texans received new life thanks to the missed field goal, but if Washington could’ve run the ball effectively, maybe they would have taken more time off the clock.
Instead, after three quarters, despite holding a 27-17 lead, the Redskins’ time of possession was 19 minutes, seven seconds. The Texans, meanwhile, had held the ball for 25 minutes, 23 seconds. Foster wasn’t the dominant force that he was last week against the Colts, but his 12 carries and 46 yards and Steve Slayton’s three carries for 14 yards kept his team from becoming predictable.
Mike Shanahan said, “We have been working on [the run game], but we are just not as good as we want to be. I can’t tell you, and I’m not going to tell you exactly why, but we will keep on working on it and hopefully we will get better.”
Portis, who had two one-yard touchdown runs said, “We’ve just got to be patient.”
By patient does he mean the Redskins keep pounding away and eventually find a rhythm?
At the same time, as Artis Hicks pointed out, “You’ve got to take what the defense gives you.” The guard said that there were plenty of run plays drawn up, but with the Texans overloading here and there, or “giving all kinds of funky looks,” McNabb would check down into a passing play.
That’s fine, but good teams are able to go to an aspect of their offense -- whether it’s the pass or the run -- when they need it.
The passing game was working Sunday night, but what if it hadn’t been? The Redskins can’t just hope to wear foes down by the fourth quarter and then start picking up yards. They need to produce well before that. Maybe more Johnson sprinkled in early on -- rather than all Portis until the fourth quarter -- would help get things going.