In many ways, Peterson, who ran for 108 yards on 18 carries, has justified interim head coach Bill Callahan’s decision to make him and the running game the focal points of Washington’s offense since taking over four games ago. But Sunday’s 24-9 loss to the Buffalo Bills proved yet again that it wasn’t enough. The Redskins’ offense might have an identity, but that identity hasn’t involved scoring points.
Washington has gone three straight games without scoring a touchdown. Its last touchdown came in the third quarter of a 17-16 win over the Miami Dolphins on Oct. 13.
“It’s frustrating,” Callahan said. “It’s kind of a similar template to how we’ve been playing in recent weeks. We’re down there, and we get in position, [and] whether it’s a penalty or an incomplete pass or we get stuffed on a run … we don’t close a third-down red-zone play. That’s the frustrating element. We’ve been there before. We’ve worked on it.”
The first possession of the second quarter was a glaring example of Peterson not being enough. He ran for 18, 17 and 28 yards on consecutive plays to give the Redskins a first and 10 from the Buffalo 18-yard line. But the offense stalled, leaving Washington to settle for a field goal attempt and just three points from a 71-yard drive.
The Redskins finished 0 for 2 in the red zone and 2 for 11 on third downs. They also settled for a field goal from the Buffalo 21-yard line.
“I feel the frustration, I promise you,” Peterson said. “We’ve been in every game [the past four weeks] … but we’re doing something right. We just have to do more right. The narrative shifts when that appears. It just sucks that it hasn’t. It’s always the small things, man.”
The defense knows it needs to be perfect — and despite improvement, it hasn’t been
The Redskins’ defense has allowed just one opponent to surpass the 20-point plateau in the past four games, and that one occasion came against the offensively challenged Bills on Sunday. That, ideally, would be enough to be better than 1-3 during that span, but the team continues to struggle to score touchdowns.
That’s a hard spot for the Redskins’ defense to be in. The players know they need to be nearly perfect on a weekly basis to give the team a chance to win — and despite an overall improvement in the unit’s play since the season’s first few weeks, they haven’t been.
The Redskins held the Bills to just 268 total yards and were far from dominant in any specific area, but a few moments made a big difference. The most notable Sunday was allowing a 23-yard completion from Josh Allen to John Brown on a third-and-18 play late in the fourth quarter. The Bills scored a touchdown four snaps later and the 24-9 deficit was insurmountable with 2:21 remaining.
The defense stopped several short-yardage situations in the shadow of the end zone but still let the Bills convert six of 12 third downs and score on three of four trips to the red zone.
“We’ve got to come up big,” linebacker Ryan Anderson said. “We’ve got to do more. … It might sound big, but that’s what it is. If that’s what it takes, that’s what we’ve got to do. … We’ve got to dominate our matchup. We’ve got to get takeaways. We’ve got to be the type of defense that we were created to be.”
Things are unlikely to get easier after the bye
The Redskins are now one of four one-win teams in the NFL, after the Dolphins got their first victory of the season on Sunday over the one-win New York Jets. The Cincinnati Bengals are the lone winless team in the league.
Players continue to put on a brave face, but things look bleak moving forward. The Redskins have a bye next week and host the Jets coming out of it in a winnable game, at which point their schedule takes a challenging turn. They host the Detroit Lions before back-to-back road games at the Carolina Panthers and the Green Bay Packers. That is followed by a season-ending stretch against NFC East rivals in the Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys.