When the broiled crowd booed Sunday after another failed first-half red zone possession by the Washington Redskins, the reactions were decidedly different on the sideline and in the coaches’ box.
Having been on the field in similar situations, veteran backup Todd Collins nodded approvingly when a scrambling Jason Campbell threw it away instead of forcing a throw.
Admitting three points are better than nothing, offensive coordinator Sherman Smith did the same before moving on to the next series.
And although upset when Campbell missed an open Antwaan Randle El in the end zone, coach Jim Zorn was glad the quarterback didn’t commit the kind of backbreaking error that ended comeback hopes last year at Dallas and Tampa Bay.
In a game in which the Redskins had to rally from nine points down entering the fourth quarter to defeat the New Orleans Saints 29-24 on Campbell’s 67-yard touchdown pass to Santana Moss, Campbell and the Redskins know they could have been in real trouble after getting only nine points from four first-half trips inside the New Orleans 20.
The Redskins scored touchdowns on only two of their six trips inside the red zone Sunday, something that must improve quickly for games against Arizona, Dallas and Philadelphia - teams that have prolific passing games.
The positive from Campbell’s perspective is that he’s not committing costly turnovers.
“You want to take your shots in the red zone, but at the same time, you have to be smart about it,” Campbell said Monday at Redskin Park. “You don’t know what those three points can mean for you at the end of the game. But you don’t want to be afraid to go for seven either. You have to be stingy and take advantage of what we have.
“It just comes from maturity. You want to get points - that’s the whole object. But you also don’t want to turn down the open guy or be afraid to shoot it in there.”
Through two games, Campbell has committed no turnovers in any part of the field.
“He’s been very good in the pocket controlling and securing the ball and making decisions on some throwaways that have been excellent,” Zorn said.
The Redskins had a chance to blow out New Orleans in the first half but had to settle for three Shaun Suisham field goals in four red zone trips.
On their second drive of the game, the Redskins reached the 12-yard line before three plays gained 6 yards. Their third drive ended at the 19, the fourth drive at the 12 after a Campbell scramble came up two yards short and the final first-half drive at the 17 when Campbell threw it into the bleachers.
The Redskins are tied for 18th in the NFL in red zone efficiency (85.7 percent).
“We had to kick field goals in the red zone [Sunday], and I grit my teeth because I want to score touchdowns when we get in there,” Zorn said. “We’ll be better at that.”
The second positive for the Redskins is the offense buckled down in the second half and scored on both trips inside the 20-yard line. On those drives, the running game did all of the work once in the red zone.
“Just execution,” Smith said. “All the time, it’s been about us, not what the defense is doing. A breakdown here and there - everybody took their turn. In the second half, guys punched it in, and we made plays. Santana and those guys made the catches, Jason made some nice throws, the line blocked it well and our backs did a good job.”
Said tight end Todd Yoder: “It was very frustrating because we know how important it is to not score touchdowns. We knew in the second half we had to put touchdowns up to stay in the game and then come back.”
Moving the ball wasn’t a problem for the Redskins. They gained 455 yards, moving them up to 11th in the NFL. Campbell had one of his best games, completing 24 of 36 passes for 321 yards.
Now the objective for Campbell is to gain consistency and for the offense to make defenses play inside the 20.
“We liked his improvement,” Zorn said. “He just needs to continue improving. Now we want to put these things back to back and see him play even better in weeks to come.”