“If they don’t come after you [with a blitz], there’s just not a lot of people open, and there’s rarely someone open in rhythm,” Kyle Shanahan said. “There’s just too many people in the end zone and not enough eligibles [players allowed to catch a pass].”
“They drop eight into coverage and they have their whole team in the end zone, and that makes it difficult,” Grossman said. “Third and four or less opens up the playbook a little more. So those first and second downs are crucial down there.”
Mike Shanahan agrees with those assessments. But after just three weeks, he bristles at the notion that the statistics reveal that the Redskins are struggling in the red zone. They did score three touchdowns in four trips inside the 20 in the season opener against the New York Giants. And he prefers to look at the red-zone trips on a case-by-case basis.
Against Dallas, the Redskins only nominally entered the red zone on one of their ventures — a third-and-five play from the 18, on which Grossman threw toward wide receiver Terrence Austin, who was cutting toward the left corner of the end zone. Austin slipped a bit, and the throw fell incomplete, but the read, both Shanahans said, was correct.
“Good play,” Mike Shanahan said. “We just missed it.”
The final trip inside the 20, in the third quarter, was textbook — a third-down play from the 19 on which Grossman found Hightower over the middle. Hightower then had successive runs of six and five yards, setting up first and goal from the 1. That perfectly set up a play-action pass on which Grossman found Hightower, wide open for a touchdown.
“We have the kind of system, we have that caliber of player where we all can feed off each other down there, with lots of options,” Hightower said. “That’s the frustrating part of this business, is not getting it done when we have what we need to do it.”
Mike Shanahan may believe the Redskins’ 14 trips to the red zone over three games are too small a sample, and the season is too young to judge. But he does know one other thing.
“We’re nowhere near where we want to be,” he said.