So far it has not worked out. The Redskins have struggled mightily on special teams in their first five games under Burns, culminating with the ugly performance during Sunday night’s loss at Dallas in which Cowboys return man Dwayne Harris scored a touchdown on an 86-yard punt return and set up another touchdown with a 90-yard kickoff return.
“Special teams definitely lost the game today for us,” Kehl said late Sunday night in Arlington, Tex. “We’ve just got to play better. It [stinks].”
The Redskins face the Chicago Bears and Devin Hester, who holds the NFL record with 17 career touchdowns on punt and kickoff returns, this weekend.
Kehl won’t be part of this season’s solution, if there is to be one, for the Redskins’ special teams woes. He suffered a season-ending knee injury during Harris’s punt-return touchdown Sunday night. Coach Mike Shanahan said Monday that Kehl had suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.
Kehl collapsed to the turf without being hit by a Cowboys player just as he neared Harris to try to make a tackle. That’s the sort of misfortune, combined with poor play, from which the Redskins have suffered on special teams. The Redskins believed that Paul was blocked illegally in the back on Harris’s punt return. Replays showed that it was relatively light contact but that the Redskins indeed, with better luck, might have gotten a flag thrown for a penalty that would have negated the touchdown.
“He got pushed in the back,” Shanahan said Monday.
In addition, the touchdown came after the Redskins were forced to re-punt because of an illegal-motion penalty.
“We had a penalty that brought it back,” Shanahan said. “We had them inside the 15[-yard line]. And the second one, that’s when Kehl’s knee actually collapses when he’s making a cut right there with the ball carrier. But as I said before, you’ve got to play well as a unit and if you’re a little bit off either way, you can look pretty average very quickly.”
Looking average probably would be a significant step up for the Redskins at this point. The punt- and kickoff-coverage failures in Dallas came two weeks after the Redskins, in their previous game, surrendered a touchdown on a blocked punt and allowed the Raiders to get a first down on a fake punt during a victory in Oakland.
“The guys up front, they do a great job of blocking for me,” Harris said when asked by reporters about his kickoff return. “You know, they opened up a hole anybody could run through. [Backup quarterback] Kyle Orton came and told me he could have ran through it. So I said, ‘All right, so I definitely could have ran through it.’ ”