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Quick Start, Slow Finish for Redskins

By Gene Wang
Washingtonpost.com Correspondent
Web Posted: Sunday, November 7, 1999; 7:36 p.m. EST

It all began so well for the Washington Redskins' offense today. They dominated during their first possession, pushing around the Buffalo Bills en route to a 66-yard touchdown drive that used 4 minutes 5 seconds. They mixed the run and the pass efficiently and even threw in a nifty reverse to Michael Westbrook that went for 11 yards.

Then when Stephen Davis followed Keith Sims into the end zone, teammates, coaches and fans at Redskins Stadium had every reason to feel this game could be a replay of Washington's 48-22 thumping of the Chicago Bears last week.

Instead, the offense managed just 213 yards the rest of the game and at times in the second half looked downright sloppy in a 34-17 loss that wasn't even that close.

"I thought we would have to play our best football to have an opportunity to win the football game, and it was obvious we were far from that," Redskins Coach Norv Turner said.

Turner was referring to poor play on offense, defense and special teams, but he easily could have pointed his finger at just the offense, which came in averaging a league-best 34.5 points per game.

"We started off strong and then, I don't know, we couldn't move the ball," fullback Larry Centers said.

After their opening drive, the Redskins bogged down in both rushing and passing. Davis never got going again, and quarterback Brad Johnson, after a solid beginning, was not as crisp on his throws as normal. It also didn't help that his receivers, from Michael Westbrook to Brian Mitchell to Albert Connell, all failed to secure passes that could have been caught.

"I wish we had more opportunities, but we couldn't get into a groove," guard Tre Johnson said. "I wouldn't change anything about the offense at all at this point. We had plenty of plays there, but we didn't make them. We needed to make the most of the opportunities we had, but we didn't."

After their initial drive, the Redskins owned the ball just three more times in the first half. On their second possession, they missed a long field goal when Brett Conway was wide left from 55 yards. On their third possession, Conway converted from 41 yards. The Redskins' fourth possession lasted but two plays when they got the ball with 11 seconds to go before halftime and threw once to Mitchell before launching an innocuous Hail Mary.

Then it got worse in the second half.

The Redskins went three plays and punt on their first two series of the third quarter. Their longest gain in those two drives went for six yards. And the offense did not record a first down in the second half until Johnson completed a 19-yard pass to Westbrook with less than 50 seconds to play in the third quarter.

Meantime, the Bills strung together consecutive scoring drives lasting 4:46 and 5:29, further frustrating an offense that did little even when it was on the field.

"We have a great offense," said Westbrook, who had four receptions for 72 yards. "Every game we want to go out and score as many points as we can. We want to go out there and score points. That is our job. Obviously our defense was out there playing too much."

A big reason for that was the Redskins' lack of success on third downs. They converted 5 of 12 attempts, many of which were third-down-and-long situations. That allowed the Bills pass rush to get untracked and come at Johnson with reckless abandon. The result for Johnson was a mediocre 19-for-37 passing game with 232 yards and one interception.

"The first one or two possessions [of the second half] we didn't convert on third down, and then the game got out of hand," Johnson said. "Buffalo scored on every drive, and they had a big lead. The game just got out of h and, and we didn't make things happen.

"The game just got sloppy. Any time you throw the ball over 30 times in a game, you're going to get yourself in a bind. That means you're behind. It's not Norv; that's just the way the game goes when you get behind like we did in the second half. . . We could play better, but today just wasn't our day."

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