Red zone struggles, miscommunications baffle Redskins players

DeMarcus Ware, Alfred Morris

Alfred Morris and the Redskins went 0-for-3 in three trips inside the red zone. (LM Otero/Associated Press)

Washington Redskins players found themselves dumbfounded by their 0-for-3 showing in the red zone against the Dallas Cowboys, and expressed concern over other offensive miscues that kept them from capitalizing on prime opportunities Sunday night.

The Redskins had to settle for field goals despite venturing inside Dallas’s 20-yard line three times and inside the 15-yard line twice.

On their first trip inside the red zone, the Redskins reached the Dallas 9-yard line thanks to an eight-yard Alfred Morris run. But a Robert Griffin III incompletion to Morris and then a stop for no gain by Morris set Washington up for third-and-goal from the 9. Griffin ran a keeper up the middle, but got stopped at the 2-yard line.

Late in the second quarter, the Redskins reached the Cowboys’ 17-yard line, but then Griffin threw to the end zone — presumably for Pierre Garcon, but Garcon had run a comeback route at the 10-yard line, and the ball sailed way over his head. Garcon put his hands on his hips in frustration and walked back to the huddle.

Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said on Monday that Garcon missed a signal from Griffin that was meant to change the wide receiver’s assignment to running a go-route.

In the third quarter, Washington reached the Dallas 20 before Morris lost two yards on a run up the middle on second down. On third and nine, Griffin completed a pass to Garcon for seven yards, and place kicker Kai Forbath came on again for another field goal.

“It’s mind-boggling. It’s frustrating,” left tackle Trent Williams said. “In this league. You’ve got to come away with touchdowns in the red zone, and you can’t turn the ball over. We weren’t good in those areas, and the game reflected it.”

Said wide receiver Santana Moss, “Honestly, it shouldn’t have been a problem for us because we have a pretty good offense in the red zone. We have to go back to the drawing board, see where we’re falling short on and just correct it.”

One more blown opportunity came just outside the red zone.

Late in the fourth quarter, with the ball at the Dallas 23, Griffin threw an interception in the back of the end zone. But on that play, his intended receiver, Moss, fell down on the play and jumped up asking for a flag because of contact with safety Barry Church. Dallas cornerback Orlando Scandrick ran out the pass route and made the catch in the right corner of the end zone.

Garcon has proven himself as Griffin’s go-to receiver, but on Sunday, he recorded only six catches on 15 targets. Griffin and Garcon’s timing and communication appeared to be off. Griffin overthrew Garcon two more times – once when it appeared that Garcon was running a different route – and another time, Griffin underthrew him under his receiver.

“Not on the same page, and that’s the struggle,” Garcon said after the game. “We just haven’t been on the same page, and it definitely shows. It’s very frustrating when you can’t convert on plays that you practice all the time.”

Garcon has twice as many receptions as any other Redskin, and nearly double the yards as well. He has 35 catches for 408 yards while the team’s second-leading receiver, Leonard Hankerson, has 17 catches for 221 yards.

So, he and Griffin do have a connection. But things weren’t on point against Dallas.

Asked for the reason behind the struggles, Garcon said, “I wish I knew. If we knew, we’d fix it, but I don’t have a definite answer to it. We’ve got to get it fixed. We’ve got to watch the film, practice hard and keep working, because giving up is something you can’t do in the league.”

Have a Redskins question? E-mail Mike Jones at mike.jones@washpost.com with the subject line “Mailbag question” for him to answer it in The Mailbag on Tuesday.

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