Despite loss, Redskins offense shows progress
In the gloom and doom and frustration of yet
another lost season in Washington, there is some excitement at Redskins
Park about an offense that has averaged 23.3 points the past four games
after averaging just 14.3 points during the first nine games.
"I don't think there's any question about it,"
coach Mike Shanahan said when asked if the Redskins had their best day
on offense in Sunday's 34-27 loss to New England. "We made some plays."
Indeed, quarterback Rex Grossman found receivers
Donte' Stallworth (51 and 23 yards) and Jabar Gaffney (24 and 23 yards)
for long gains and connected with Gaffney and receiver David Anderson
on touchdowns while receiver Santana Moss hauled in a 49-yard score on
a reverse turned option pass from return specialists Brandon Banks.
Washington finished with season highs of 27 points
and 463 yards despite having lost tight end Fred Davis, its top weapon,
and left tackle Trent Williams to suspensions last Tuesday and right
tackle Jammal Brown to a groin injury in warmups before kickoff Sunday.
Minus Davis, the Redskins used three receivers and two backs more often
than ever before during Shanahan's two seasons. And rookie free agent
Willie Smith and November signee Tyler Polumbus spent most of the game
as the tackles.
"This offense is obviously very capable to make
plays and be efficient up and down the field," said Anderson, who
played in coordinator Kyle Shanahan's offense in Houston before signing
with Washington last month. "A key is to make the little plays and
continue drives. We were doing that well yesterday and it added up. I
think everyone's pretty enthused about how good this offense can be."
The Redskins were 7-of-14 on third downs, one of
the little things that Anderson mentioned.
Mike Shanahan is especially pleased with Roy Helu,
who established career-highs of 126 yards on 27 carries in becoming the
first rookie back in franchise history to hit the century mark three
"The last couple of games we've been getting
better in the running game," Shanahan said. "Roy has been doing an
excellent job. We're giving him more of a load."
Grossman, who has passed for at least 200 yards in
five straight games for the first time in his career, was equally
enthused about a running game that also featured career highs of six
carries and 44 yards by rookie Evan Royster, who was drafted two rounds
"You have to have balance," Grossman said. "The
runs have to put you in good position to throw the ball, put you in
third and manageable, getting first downs on first down or on second
down to keep you out of third downs. Getting big chunks helps open up
the play-action pass (which is) everything to this type of offense."
Told that he has set a Redskins record, Helu was
his usual non-impressed self.
"Pretty cool," he said before crediting his
revamped crew of blockers.
--Oft-injured veteran free safety O.J. Atogwe was
benched for rookie Dejon Gomes for Sunday's game. Atgowe, who signed
with Washington in March just before the lockout after being let go by
St. Louis, was disappointed that he played just eight snaps against New
"I knew early on in the week," said Atogwe, who
missed four of the previous seven games with various leg ailments.
"I've been feeling real good. I feel like I'm able to play, contribute,
go out there and help the team, but it's coach's decision on who plays
and who doesn't play. I support that decision. It's been a long,
challenging year for the team. I don't believe I'm any different. At
times, (I've) been hampered."
Atogwe and buddy LaRon Landry, who missed the last
two games with a groin injury, have started just four games as a
tandem. Backup Reed Doughty has started eight games, as many as each of
the supposed regular safeties have.
"OJ played at a very high level when he was in
there," coach Mike Shanahan said about Atogwe's performance against the
Patriots. "That gives him the opportunity to play more (this week at
the New York Giants)."
--Willie Smith, a rookie free-agent tackle from
East Carolina, waited 13 games until he finally got a chance to make
his NFL debut. On his third play, Smith was beaten by former Redskin
Andre Carter, who sacked and stripped Rex Grossman in the end zone. New
England's Vince Wilfork fell on the fumble for a touchdown. But Smith
settled down after that. He played most of the way as Carter produced
three hurries, four tackles and no more sacks.
"Willie handled himself well," said Shanahan, who
laid some of the blame on that turnover on Grossman holding the ball
too long and not feeling the pressure from the blind side. "We thought
we could take a little pressure off him not throwing him in right away.
Once he started playing well, we kept him in there and he did a good
Veteran right tackle Sean Locklear had started in
place of suspended left tackle Trent Williams and Shanahan said Monday
that Locklear and Smith will compete again in practice this week to see
who gets the nod against the potent New York Giants pass rush.
"It wasn't what I expected from (myself), but I
think I did enough to help us out," Smith said. "I was expecting to go
out there and play a solid game: no sacks, no pressures. I guess I set
the standard real high, but I want to be good."
--At 5-7 and 155 pounds, Brandon Banks might just
be the smallest player to throw an NFL pass, but the second-year return
specialist has a perfect passer rating after connecting with Santana
Moss on a 49-yard touchdown against the Patriots.
"Sometimes you feel like you need a big play,"
said Shanahan, whose offense set season highs with 463 yards and 27
points thanks to Banks' surprising heroics.
Banks, who hadn't been part of the offense this
season after seeing sporadic duty there as a rookie, said the Redskins
had practiced the play a few times this year but focused on it more
"We played around with me throwing the ball, but
it was a joke at first," he said. "(Last) week it was kind of serious.
I was just excited that they put me on offense. It was a reverse pass
call. I had the option to run it or keep it. They bit on me so I just
threw it up to Santana."
Gallery: Patriots 34 - Redskins 27
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