The Washington Redskins Offense: Going Nowhere

The Redskins make early mistakes and the offense never gets going, leading to a loss in Baltimore and dim hopes for a playoff berth.
By Thomas Boswell
Monday, December 8, 2008


In the NFL, it's one thing to lose. It is another entirely to be exposed. You can recover from the first type of disappointment with a night's sleep and renewed resolve. But the second kind of frustration eats at a team's confidence, lingers into future games and ultimately can contaminate an entire season.

That's where the Washington Redskins' offense is now, ranked 29th in the NFL in points and, once again Sunday night, exposed for a national TV audience to see in a 24-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Since the beginning of November, the Redskins have played four first-rate defenses -- the Steelers, Cowboys, Giants and Ravens -- and scored only 33 points in four losses that have dropped Washington's record to 7-6 and left its playoff hopes hanging by a thread.

Until the fourth quarter, the Washington attack was held scoreless. Then, as if to underline their futility issues, they managed 10 points -- too little too late -- after the stellar Redskins defense came up with two turnovers and presented the ball to the offense deep in Ravens territory.

As a final irony, the defense that has played so well so often finally came unglued as the Ravens mounted a 12-play, 83-yard scoring drive to ice the game on a 28-yard touchdown bomb from rookie Joe Flacco to wide receiver Derrick Mason. The final image of this game will be of the Redskins' defense failing. But that will invert the truth of this team's problems and the reason that it will, almost certainly, have to win its final three games and then, most likely, have to get help from others to make the playoffs as a wild card.

The Redskins' attack, conceptualized by Coach Jim Zorn and executed by Jason Campbell, has become so inept against elite defenses that it is almost as apt to allow a score to its foes (one in this game) as to produce a touchdown for itself.

Asked if he ever felt bad to see his defense play well, allowing only 281 yards in this game, yet not get support from his offense, Zorn said: "Ever? Always. I cringe every time I think about us scoring only seven or 10 points."

Just as bad, the Redskins have fallen into a pattern of falling behind, both fast and far, against quality opponents. A week ago, it took the Giants only five minutes to score a touchdown and less than 18 minutes to lead 13-0, putting that game to sleep. Zorn fumed that his team wasn't ready to play from the opening kickoff.

This time, the Redskins showed what true lack of readiness looks like, throwing an interception, having a punt blocked and allowing a touchdown on a fumble return for a 14-0 Baltimore lead in just 5:30.

Often, such lapses soon after leaving the locker room are laid at a coach's feet. Certainly, Joe Gibbs placed the blame there. A long season requires Rah-Rah 101, too.

Since the start of November, as the weather has worsened, the Redskins' offense has been clubbed by the Steelers, beaten by the Cowboys and steamrolled by the Giants, all on their own FedEx Field. On this bitter windy night in the land of amazing Ed Reed (two interceptions and that fumble touchdown return), Ray Lewis and purple pain, the Redskins' offensive exposure in the early crucial phase of this game was instantaneous and ugly.

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