The Washington Redskins on Sunday continued their struggle to find balance on offense as offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan dialed up 50 pass attempts and just 22 runs. Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said that given the circumstances, he thought that his team did a better job until faced with desperate late-game situations.
The Redskins didn’t have the luxury of establishing their run game in the their first two games of the season because they fell into sizeable holes and had to scrap their game plan and dig their way out of with pass-heavy attacks. Against Philadelphia, Washington had 49 passes and 18 rushes. Against Green Bay, the Redskins passed the ball 40 times and ran 17 times.
Sunday’s game, for the most part, remained within reach for Washington throughout regulation. The game ended with Robert Griffin III having completed 32 of 50 passes for 326 yards, no touchdowns and an interception. Alfred Morris, meanwhile, carried the ball 15 times and gained 73 yards and a touchdown. Griffin added six carries, and wide receiver Pierre Garcon added one carry – an end-around.
Shanahan said, however, that eliminating a total of 22 passes at the end of the second and fourth quarters, the Redskins did have better balance.
“I think if you take a look at that ratio, you have to take a look at the total game,” Shanahan said. “We had 22 passes. With 38 seconds left, we had five at the end of the [first] half. We had 17 at the end of the game. … So, that’s the type of ratio we’re looking for. Once you get into two-minute situation, those numbers can get carried away one way or the other, and that’s what happened. But when you really break down a game, you’ve got to break it down, and you’ve got to look at it, and the run-pass ratio was right at 50 percent. That’s what we look at quite a bit – trying to keep that ratio fairly close to 50 percent if we can do it. Doesn’t always happen.”
With four rushes and six passes in the first half, the Redskins didn’t get off to a bad start. The team then attempted five runs and 15 pass plays in the second quarter (and as Shanahan pointed out, five of those passes came with the first-half clock running down). The balance returned in the third quarter with seven rushes and seven passes.
The Redskins entered the fourth quarter in a 17-17 tie, and then with 11:13 left in the game, fell behind 20-17. Washington in the final quarter had to go with 22 pass attempts to six rushes.
For the season, Morris has averaged just 13 carries a game while Griffin has attempted 46.3 passes per game. This comes a year after Morris averaged 21 carries to Griffin’s 25 pass attempts and eight carries a game.
The drastic spike in the pass attempts and plunge in rushing attempts doesn’t reflect a change in philosophy, Redskins players say. Instead, the problem remains situational.
“I don’t know the stats exactly, but I know we’ve been playing catch-up at the end the last three weeks, so that’s why we’re more pass than run,” guard Chris Chester said. “We’re still doing some things running the ball. Last week we had 100 yards, or something like that. This week, I think [Morris] had  yards. So, we’re definitely a run-first team and it’s just the situations we’re in and we’ve had to play catch-up at the end.”
Kyle Shanahan prefers balance in his attack, and his offensive linemen say they too would prefer more of a run-first system because it allows them to be more aggressive in the trenches, and it eases pressure on them as well.
“Obviously when you’re throwing the ball that many times, the defensive line can tee off on you,” right tackle Tyler Polumbus said. “That’s a pass rusher’s dream to get in a game where you’re rushing the quarterback 50 times. They get to pull out all their moves, their best moves, and they get to set you up for stuff. It’s basically that’s their dream is to be able to rush the quarterback that many times. So it’s a challenge to sit back and protect that many times because, pure numbers, if you give them enough opportunities, they’re getting paid well also.”
Meanwhile, Garcon naturally said that he has no problem with the Redskins throwing 50 times a game.
“I don’t mind it, as long as we complete them or get close to completing them, at least over 70 percent of our completions or whatnot,” said Garcon, who was on the receiving end of eight Griffin passes and was targeted a total of 13 times. “But on different days it’s gonna be different things that the defenses give you. Some days we’re gonna rush for 200-some-odd yards. Some days we’re gonna throw for over 500 yards. It’s all about just about showing the plays and capitalize on what the defense gives you.”
Fullback Darrel Young, who is used at times both in the running and passing games, said it doesn’t matter where the emphasis lies. He and his teammates simply need to execute better.
“Kyle’s the coordinator. We’ve won under him. It doesn’t matter what he calls, at the end of the day. If we calls a running play on third-and-20, we should be able to convert. It’s nothing that we haven’t seen on film,” Young said. “A lot of the positions we’re in, we’re doing it to ourselves. It’s hard to call a play that’s successful on third-and-18 or second-and-18. You call a screen play? And then they stop it. We’re doing it to ourselves. If we get in second-and-short and third-and-short, we’re fine because we moved the ball and we have to many options to run off of that as opposed to needing 18 yards. We’re putting him in [crappy] situations, to be honest with you.”
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