For Redskins, third down remains a problem

Mike Shanahan

Coach Mike Shanahan’s Redskins are the worst in the league on third downs, converting only 23.3 percent of them for first downs. (Tom Gannam/Associated Press)

The Washington Redskins continue to look for answers on third down after putting on another woeful performance Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons.

 The Redskins made one of only nine third down conversions in the 24-17 loss to the Falcons, punted six times and lost the time of possession battle, 37:01 to 22:59. Their inability to convert on third down meant a lack of sustained drives and put more pressure on a defense that already has had a fair share of struggles this season.

 The Redskins offense was on the field for 45 snaps. The Falcons, meanwhile, went 9-for-17 on third downs and ran 85 plays. The large snap count appeared to take its toll on the defense, which held Atlanta in check for the better part of three quarters before giving up 17 points in the fourth quarter of the loss.

 “We’ve got to get over the hump,” fullback Darrel Young said. “The defense played their butts off on Sunday. But 85 snaps is entirely too much for any defense. Those guys played hard. We’ve got to take at least 15 to 20 of those plays away.”

 Through five games, the Redskins own the worst success percentage in the league, converting only 14 of 60 third downs (23.3 percent) for first downs. This is a drastic decline from last season, when, despite managing only 18 points a game, (less than this season), the Redskins owned a .370 clip on third downs.

Prior to Sunday, the Redskins had little problem putting points on the board despite the third down struggles. The Redskins rank sixth in total offense and eighth in scoring, averaging 28 points a game. But success on third down will make the difference when it comes to wins and losses, coach Mike Shanahan says.

 “Obviously, it’s an area that we have to get better at. … You take a combination of killing those drives, being 1-for-9 on third-down and 0-for-2 in the red zone, it’s truly hard to win a football game,” Shanahan said. “Saying that, there were a number of positives with the way we ran the football [gaining a total of 129 yards]. We make a couple of those third downs, just three or four, and keep drives going, you have a chance to have a dominating day. Still had an opportunity to win, even with those crazy stats as they were. But to beat a good football team, we have to play better than that as a whole.”

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