For the Redskins and their opponents, every lead has been safe this season. In its five wins, Washington has scored first and never trailed. In its three losses, Washington has allowed the game’s first points and never led. Through nine weeks, the Redskins are the only team in the NFL that has yet to experience a lead change.
“You can probably count on one hand how many comeback wins we’ve had since I’ve been here,” Redskins Coach Jay Gruden said Wednesday when asked about his team’s struggles when playing from behind.
It actually takes three hands to count the Redskins' 15 wins in the 54 games in which they’ve trailed at any point during Gruden’s tenure, which began in 2014. But that number still puts Washington in some unflattering company. As Howard Fendrich of the Associated Press noted this week, the only teams with fewer come-from-behind wins during that span are the Colts (14), Bears (13), Giants (13), Jaguars (10) and Browns (nine). Fendrich also reported that, since the start of the 2014 season, the 2017 Browns and 2017 Giants are the only teams to go an entire season without winning a game they trailed. Those teams finished 0-16 and 3-13. Under Gruden, the Redskins are 25-14-1 when scoring first and 8-24 when their opponent scores first.
Fox’s broadcast team mentioned the Redskins' lack of lead changes during Washington’s win over the Giants in Week 8. Since then, other media members have taken notice of the quirky stat.
Redskins quarterback Alex Smith, who led the Chiefs to four comeback wins last season, including one against Washington, suggested his teammates weren’t aware of the stat and downplayed the Redskins' inability to overcome a deficit.
“Certainly we’ve been in a lot of games that have been back and forth and come down to the wire,” Smith said Wednesday.
A couple of games have come down to the wire, but none of them has truly been back and forth. There’s no easy way to search for lead changes on Pro Football Reference, but by my count, after perusing the box scores of every regular season game this season through Thursday, there have been 136 lead changes in 135 games. The Saints have experienced a league-high 18 lead changes, including eight in their 43-37, overtime win at the Falcons in Week 3. The Jaguars witnessed their first (and thus far only) lead change in a Week 8 loss to the Eagles in London. Every other team, except the Redskins, has been involved in at least four lead changes.
(Worth noting: The first score in every Redskins game this season has been a touchdown.)
According to the NFL Media Research Department, via NFL Network reporter Gregg Rosenthal, the Redskins are the fourth team since 1970 to not have a lead change in their first eight games. The 1995 Packers went the longest without a lead change to open a season since the NFL-AFL merger, with their first lead change occurring in their ninth game in Week 10. Green Bay went 11-5 that season and lost in the NFC championship game.
Should the Redskins take an early lead Sunday at Tampa Bay, they’ll look to keep their odd streak alive. Should they fall behind, they’ll look to erase a deficit for the first time this year.
“It’s just a mind-set, really,” said Gruden, whose teams have averaged 22 lead changes per season in his four full years at the helm. “You’re never out of it until the final gun. We’ve just got to keep playing. I don’t think guys played less hard because we got down; we just didn’t make enough plays to come back. That’s something we have to figure out a way to put our players in position to, A, get the ball back when we’re on defense and, B, get the ball in the end zone at a decent rate on offense. That’s something we’ve got to continue to work on.”
This post has been updated.
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