Redskins: Good Offense Or Bad Defense?

The Washington Redskins can look back at Sunday's loss as the beginning of their emergence from an offensive funk. That is, unless you consider the Patriots' 32nd-ranked defense was trying to stop them.

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 weeks running.

   "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 after Helu.

   "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 England.

   "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 job."

   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 last week.

   "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."


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