The Washington Redskins returned to work yesterday still alone atop the NFC East. But they had problems to address in the aftermath of Sunday's 33-17 loss at Detroit, and for a change, concerns weren't limited to the defense and special teams.
The Redskins spent part of yesterday wondering why their offense, so dominant early in the season, hasn't scored 30 points in any of the past five games. Tailback Stephen Davis and some offensive linemen wondered why Davis, the NFC's leading rusher, got only three second-half carries Sunday.
Davis didn't criticize the play calling of Coach Norv Turner, but said he was "disappointed" and "surprised" he wasn't more involved in the offense.
"I don't call the plays," Davis said. "I was disappointed. When something is going good, you have to stay with it. [But] you try to have a balanced offense. Brad [Johnson, the Redskins' quarterback] has been making plays. It surprised me because our goal was to go in and run the ball, but we got away from it."
Davis had 43 rushing yards on nine first-half carries, but only eight yards on three second-half carries. He managed only 61 rushing yards the previous week against the Philadelphia Eagles on the heels of his 183-yard outing against the New York Giants.
"We could have run through those guys," Davis said of the Lions. "We couldn't pass the ball because they were good pass rushers. . . . We were running the ball pretty good. Why we didn't run the ball enough, I can't say. I don't know what the game plan is going to be next week. But hopefully it will be for us to run the ball."
Turner said he would have liked to have run the ball more in the second half Sunday. He said that two plays that had been called for Davis were changed to passes after false start penalties. Another Davis carry was wiped out by a holding call. The Redskins didn't throw the ball effectively enough to set up Davis's running, Turner said, and then they got into passing situations because of their penalties and Detroit's growing lead.
"We did throw the ball more than we would have liked, but that was the way the game was going," Turner said. ". . . You go through cycles. When you run for 183 yards, you get people's attention. Philadelphia did an excellent job against the run. They gave up some things because of it. I think Detroit did some things to slow down the run."
Guard Tre Johnson said in the postgame locker room Sunday he was "shocked" that the Redskins went away from the run in the second half, and added, "When we get behind, that takes the game out of our hands on the [offensive] line because we stop running the ball."
Right tackle Jon Jansen said yesterday, "I'm not going to second-guess what the coaches did." But he added, "We always like to run the ball more to slow down the rush."
The Lions had five sacks Sunday, and both Tre Johnson and Jansen were quick to point out that the Redskins' offensive line didn't perform up to its usual standard of this season.
"We didn't get the job done up front," Jansen said.
The Redskins' offense was undone Sunday by the Detroit defensive line and the crowd noise at the Silverdome. But the team's worries are about more than one game.
After averaging 34.6 points in their first seven games of the season, the Redskins have averaged 21 points in their past five contests.
They are averaging 342 yards per game in that span, but are hurting themselves with penalties and turnovers. Brad Johnson has thrown eight interceptions in the past five games, compared with only two in the first seven games.
"One or two plays per game can be the difference," Turner said.
Tight end Stephen Alexander has been limited by a strained hip flexor in recent weeks. He was on the inactive list Sunday, but said yesterday he intends to play next weekend at home against the Arizona Cardinals. Wide receiver Michael Westbrook has been playing with a cast over a broken bone in his right wrist, and fellow wide receiver Albert Connell hasn't been as productive in recent weeks. Johnson has been forced to throw shorter passes, and fullback Larry Centers has 22 receptions over the past three games.
"When we were going good, we had a bunch of guys that were very, very productive," Turner said. "One of the things that is happening is, we're not getting to throw the ball deep like we were early. . . . These guys [the Lions' defensive backs] were off of us. They were not going to let us run by them. . . . When they're playing that way, you'd like to think you can throw underneath them. [But] we missed two or three of the throws we normally make."
The NFC East has remained forgiving, however. The Redskins, with a record of 7-5, enter the final quarter of the regular season a game ahead of the Cardinals, Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants.
"This thing is about us," Turner said. "Right now, it's about us playing better than we played on Sunday."
During the first part of this season, the Redskins offense was a dominating presence, averaging more than 30 points per game. Since then, things have taken a turn for the worse with offensive production down across the board.
Pts/Gm Yards/Gm Rushes/Gm Rush Yds/Gm
First 7 (5-2) 34.6 386.9 29.3 128.1
Last 5 (2-3) 21.0 342.2 26.8 120.4
Totals (7-5) 28.9 368.3 28.3 124.9