Redskins' struggling offense vows to work on putting the game away

DeAngelo Hall has four interceptions in a victory at Soldier Field.
By Rick Maese
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 25, 2010; 1:30 AM

CHICAGO - From the meeting rooms to the locker room, the Redskins had mentioned it to each other over and over in the days leading up to Sunday's game: Getting the lead wasn't enough.

"Offensively, we talked about closing the game out," quarterback Donovan McNabb said following the team's 17-14 win Sunday.

The Redskins had an opportunity to do just that early in the fourth quarter. Following DeAngelo Hall's third interception, the Redskins, nursing a three-point lead, took over possession at the Chicago 13-yard line. Here's how the Redskins fared in their attempt to put away the Bears: a run for no gain, a penalty, an incomplete pass, a sack. Then kicker Graham Gano trotted on the field and watched the wind take his 37-yard field goal attempt square into the left upright.

"We weren't able to put the game away," said Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan. "That's what we are going to work on. . . . If we want to be the football team we are capable of being, we will have to improve in that area."

The Redskins won their fourth game on the shoulders of the defense and the reliable hands and quick feet of Hall, their seventh-year cornerback. The offense, meanwhile, continues to search in vain for any semblance of rhythm, their woes intimately tied to the struggles of their starting quarterback.

McNabb finished the game 17-of-32 passing for 200 yards and one touchdown. He threw two interceptions - a third was negated by a Chicago penalty - and fumbled the ball twice, though the Redskins recovered both. His quarterback rating of 56.8 was his lowest in two years.

"I think what people remember is the end of the game," McNabb said. "The most important thing is that we won. We can clean things up and come back and get ready for Detroit."

The Redskins rolled up 308 yards of offense against the Bears but had only one offensive touchdown. Their 13 first downs was a season-low, and they converted only 2 of 15 third-down attempts.

"This is probably one of the sloppiest games we've played as an offense," said rookie tackle Trent Williams.

The unit was actually hot coming out of the gate, outgaining the Bears in the first quarter 144 yards to Chicago's minus-5. Three of their first six offensive possessions started at the 50-yard line. The ground game was opening up the field for McNabb, and the Redskins entered Bears' territory five times.

"We had an opportunity in the first half to have 21 or 28 points," Shanahan said, "and I'm disappointed that we didn't."

In fact, all they had to show for their efforts, was 10 points, and the Redskins trailed the Bears by four at the half. McNabb threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to Santana Moss and had an interception returned 54 yards by Chicago cornerback D.J. Moore for the Bears' first touchdown.

"Just one or two plays on each drive that set us back," McNabb said. "Those are the plays in which we pretty much could have had a big lead in the first half, if we would've just take advantage of the opportunities. But we didn't."

There was little semblance of consistency after that. After posting 33 rushing yards on six carries in the opening quarter, the Redskins had minus-2 yards rushing in the second and ran the ball only once in the third quarter. Players were eager to put the ball back on the ground.

"We on the offensive line just kept on begging for it," said center Casey Rabach. "Kept on coming to Kyle [Shanahan, offensive coordinator]. That's what we really want to do. Thank goodness he stuck with it."

In the fourth quarter alone, running back Ryan Torain had 90 yards on 11 carries - though he also had two fumbles, one of which the Redskins recovered. Making his third straight start in place of injured Clinton Portis, Torain finished the game with 125 yards on 21 carries. It's the second straight week he's hit the 100-yard barrier, the first time in two years a Redskins' tailback has managed the feat in consecutive weeks.

"I'm just getting games under my belt and building confidence every time I get on that field," Torain said.

Despite the two fourth-quarter fumbles, the second-year back had five runs of 10 or more yards Sunday. He has an upright running style and feet that keep churning.

"That's one thing that makes Torain great," Williams said. "He's going to break the first tackle and he's going to make the first guy miss. You just got to keep blocking because you never know when he's going down."

While Sunday's performance wasn't necessarily easy to swallow, players say the offense is still improving from week to week. The key is shaking off the setbacks.

"We take steps and we take steps backward," said Moss, who led all Washington receivers with 63 yards.

Players will gather at Redskins Park this week to review film of an ugly win. But at least it's a win, they say.

"Although I don't think we played a great game offensively, I feel like when you look at the film, there will still be a lot of opportunities for us where we missed, things we could have hit on better," said tight end Chris Cooley, who had 52 yards on a team-high seven receptions just one week after suffering a concussion. "I think we'll go away from the film feeling better than we do right now. Right now, I don't think anyone feels like we played well offensively."

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