Washington Redskins are halfway there: First two quarters have been better than last two

The Washington Post's Barry Svrluga talks about the upcoming game between the Redskins and Greenbay Packers.
By Rick Maese
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 7, 2010; 12:32 AM

For one half each week, the Washington Redskins are among the best teams in the NFL. They move the ball, protect their quarterback and stop their opponents.

And for one half each week, they're among the league's worst, as foes pass the ball with ease, chase Donovan McNabb all over the field and light up the scoreboard.

At 2-2, the Redskins enter Sunday's game against the Green Bay Packers truly as a .500 team, consistently suffering a stark second-half dropoff that is among the league's most drastic.

"You've got to do it for four quarters and that's what we're working on," Coach Mike Shanahan said.

Players say there's no simple cure. Opposing teams are making mid-game adjustments, the Redskins are struggling get their defense off the field and the Washington offense has sputtered late in games.

"Obviously we'd like to just keep on scoring 17 points a half, that'd be awesome, or 14 points a quarter, that'd be awesome," center Casey Rabach said. "But a win's a win. Obviously there's room for improvement and stuff like that. We'll just go to work today and try to put that full game together next week."

The disparity in halves hasn't escaped the coaching staff's attention. Through four games, the Redskins have outscored opponents in the first half, 60-27; they've been outscored in the second half, 49-13.

On offense, the team's yards per pass attempt is 10.08 yards in the first half - tops in the NFL. In the second half, the Redskins are gaining 6.29 yards per pass. All six of the sacks the Redskins have given up this year have come in the final two quarters.

The picture doesn't get any prettier on the defensive side. In the second half, the Redskins have given up the most total yards from scrimmage (955) and the most receiving yards (766) in the NFL.

"It's a combination of everything," cornerback Carlos Rogers said. "Us getting off the field on third downs, offense continue to make drives last long, take some time off the clock. So it's a combination of everything, not just the defensive side of the ball."

In fact, one of the most glaring differences from one half to the next is the performance of McNabb. Through one quarter of the 16-game schedule, McNabb is 35-of-52 (67.3 percent) passing in the first half for 524 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. In the second, though, he's 35 for 69 (50.7 percent) for 434 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.

His numbers were especially bad in last Sunday's win over Philadelphia, where he was just 2-of-11 passing for 10 yards and one interception in the final two quarters.

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