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Redskins' running game never gets going in loss to Texans

By Paul Tenorio
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 20, 2010; 12:08 AM

Washington Redskins running back Larry Johnson took the handoff on the first play of the fourth quarter of Sunday's 30-27 loss to the Houston Texans and headed left.

As he ran toward a swarm of Texans defenders at the 20-yard line, Johnson turned and tried to reverse directions. At the moment, the Redskins were desperate for a clock-eating drive that might quell the building momentum on the other sideline. Instead, Johnson was dropped for a 10-yard loss as he tried to make a big play, essentially killing any chance Washington had of putting together the much-needed drive.

The run summed up Washington's struggles on the ground throughout the afternoon.

On a day when quarterback Donovan McNabb passed for 426 yards, the Redskins were unable to get anything going in the run game, finishing with just 18 rushing yards on 17 carries, an average of 1.1 yards per carry. Last week against the Dallas Cowboys, the Redskins totaled 89 yards rushing.

"We have been working on it, but we are just not as good as we want to be," Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan said. "I can't tell you and I am not going to tell you exactly why, but we will keep on working on it and hopefully we will get better."

The lack of production on the ground clearly hurt the Redskins late in the game, and though McNabb was effective finding receivers, the lack of balance limited what Washington could do.

Clinton Portis was the leading rusher, finishing with 33 yards on 13 carries and two touchdowns. After the 10-yard loss, Johnson, who finished with minus-7 yards, was pulled in favor of undrafted rookie Keiland Williams.

The only drive in which the Redskins ran the ball effectively came after Houston cut the lead to seven. Portis rushed for gains of two and 12 yards to move the Redskins to the Texans 14-yard line, and runs of five and four yards set up a third-and-1 play at the 5. A false start pushed the Redskins back, however, and the drive stalled. Graham Gano's 29-yard field goal attempt was then blocked.

"Right now as an offense we are throwing the ball around, you just have to be patient," Portis said. "I think for myself, Mike [Sellers], LJ and Keiland and the O-line, we just have to be patient and find a way to win games."

Players said after the game that the numbers were so uneven at least partly because of the Houston defensive alignment. McNabb often switched the call from a run to a pass play at the line of scrimmage, guard Artis Hicks said, and the calls were successful so they continued to look to the pass.

Still, several players acknowledged how critical it is for the Redskins to fix whatever is plaguing the run game if they want to maximize the offense's potential.

"It comes to being balanced," McNabb said. "Whenever we need to run the ball and eat up some clock we have to be very effective in doing that. And that's one that, obviously we're going to watch the film and make some corrections and hopefully get it changed for next week, as well as the rest of the season."

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