After a week of talking about improving balance on offense and developing a happy medium between the passing and rushing games, the Washington Redskins could find none of that when it mattered most in Monday night’s 18-16 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
The Redskins held a 16-9 lead over the Cowboys when their defense gave them the ball again with 13:03 left in the game. That situation would have been perfect for a long, clock-milking, cushion-providing scoring drive to help seal the victory, but instead Washington had to punt after just four snaps and less than three minutes had ticked off the clock.
Roughly five minutes later – after Dallas managed a nine-play, 76-yard drive capped by a Dan Bailey field goal pulled them within 16-15 – Washington got the ball back. But again, the Redskins couldn’t kill much clock or muster any points.
A seven-play, 32-yard drive ended with a Sav Rocca punt and lasted for only 3 minutes 14 seconds.
Those two drives differed greatly from the Redskins’ only touchdown-producing drive of the game. On that third-quarter drive, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan called for five Tim Hightower runs and four Rex Grossman passes for a balanced nine-play, 76-yard drive that was capped by Grossman’s one-yard touchdown toss to Hightower.
On that drive, the Redskins kept the Cowboys off balance with three runs to the left and two runs to the right (in alternating fashion) and sprinkling in a short pass over the middle, a short pass to the left, another pass over the middle and the touchdown pass to the left.
But for whatever reason, the balance evaporated after that. During the remaining time that Washington held a lead, Shanahan called 11 pass plays and only two running plays. Grossman completed only five of those pass attempts, which hurt in more ways than one. Not only did the incompletions prevent the Redskins from developing a rhythm again, but each errant pass stopped the clock and gave the Cowboys more time to work with.
After holding a statistical edge over their hosts for the better part of three quarters, the Redskins were outgained 164-60 and outscored 6-0 in the fourth quarter. After Hightower averaged four yards a carry on the third-quarter touchdown drive, Helu averaged just two yards per carry on his team’s only fourth-quarter run plays .
When asked about his team’s offensive struggles, Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan said only, “You either get it done or you don’t.”
Grossman dismissed the notion that too many pass plays and not enough run plays were called. He and his teammates just needed to have executed.
“Our offense is based on passing with some West Coast-type plays we were running. Long handoffs, setting screens – those are passes, but they are pretty much runs, so your stats may be a little skewed as far as [balance] is concerned. We had some three-step drops – that’s an easy completion – we had five-yard passes and moved the chains, and had a penalty on top. You have to look at it from a playcaller’s perspective.”