At the 7-minute, 23-second mark of the fourth quarter, the already thinning crowd shrank considerably. Wide receiver Terrence Austin fumbled at the 34-yard line, San Francisco linebacker and Forestville, Md., native NaVorro Bowman recovered, and the mass exodus commenced.
“Right now you take a look at the offense and it’s tough to take. It’s tough to take for me,” Shanahan said. “But I understand how this thing works. We’ve got a lot of young guys with talent, and we’re not all collective on the same page right now. . . . Everybody wants wins. . . . Everybody wants the answer. I wish I had the answer, but that’s as close as I can get.”
On the field, Shanahan’s Redskins weren’t close to solving their problems. A week after they were shut out in Toronto by the Buffalo Bills, the offense wasn’t much better. Washington, which fell to 3-5, eked out three points on a 59-yard field goal by Graham Gano, the longest in team history, and eight more on a late touchdown pass from quarterback John Beck to wide receiver Jabar Gaffney that was followed by a two-point conversion.
But Beck struggled again in his third start. He couldn’t find receivers deep, he led receivers over the middle poorly (getting picked off on one such throw) and only had success on short screen and dump-off passes to rookie running back Roy Helu, who had 14 catches, a total that broke the team record for receptions in a game held by Art Monk and Kelvin Bryant.
For the game, Beck went 30 for 47 for 254 yards, a touchdown and an interception. None of his passes traveled longer than 16 yards. And a 17-yard gain came when Helu caught a batted ball and scampered up the field before he was run out of bounds.
The offense generated only 303 yards and did not get closer to the end zone than the San Francisco 37 until Beck completed his nine-yard touchdown pass to Gaffney with 1:10 left. Beck then hit Leonard Hankerson on the two-point conversion to give his team its 11 points.
“Looking back on the flow of the game,” Beck said, “we obviously didn’t get things going the way we wanted to in the first half and into the third quarter. . . . There’s a lot of things I can improve on as a player, that I can do better and that’s my main focus right now.”
Asked about the offensive struggles, Gaffney said: “It keeps the crowd out of it, and it keeps the confidence down on our sideline. We have to do something to keep that confidence up and stop playing like we’re seeing ghosts out there.”