- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Look at some raw offensive numbers the Redskins put up in their Week 2 game against the Arizona Cardinals, and it’s not surprising that they won the game to move to 2-0. Washington piled up 455 yards to Arizona’s 324 and finished with 28 first downs.

And yet it took a late comeback to squeeze out the 22-21 victory.

“Even though we had a lot of yards, we know we should have had a lot more points,” receiver Santana Moss said.

The culprit is a familiar one from the preseason. Despite marching down the field with relative ease at times, the Redskins often looked incompetent in the red zone, scoring just twice in seven trips.

“Obviously, not very good, not good enough to score 22 points the way we moved the football and to be down in the red zone seven different times and to only come away with two touchdowns,” coach Mike Shanahan said. “That will be an area of emphasis this next week, and hopefully we’ll improve.”

It’s been an ongoing concern. The offense managed just a 29.4 percent conversion rate in the end zone in four exhibition games. Last season, the Redskins ranked 19th in the league by scoring touchdowns on 51.16 percent of their trips into the red zone.

But red zone efficiency wasn’t a problem in Week 1, when the Redskins went 3-for-4 en route to a 28-14 win over the New York Giants. In the first trip Sunday, quarterback Rex Grossman threw an interception to safety Adrian Wilson. Later, the Cardinals blocked a Graham Gano field goal attempt.

Grossman was 5-for-12 for 36 yards, two touchdowns and the pick in the red zone, despite being blitzed only twice on 12 drop-backs. Still, he said Arizona made life inside the 20-yard line difficult.

“The Cardinals did a great job in the red zone. You’ve got to give them credit for covering our guys and not allowing us to score,” he said. “So it’s not always just our mistakes. They did a great job of bending but not breaking.”

Those two touchdowns came on first-and-goal from the 1, and then on an 18-yard completion to Moss on fourth down. On that drive, the Redskins were determined to put the earlier mistakes behind them.

“[We said] that we’re not going to leave it up to a field goal - we’ve got to go out here and score,” tight end Fred Davis said. “We do that too many times where we put ourselves in situations in the red zone and we don’t execute. That’s one thing, to be a great team in this league, you’ve got to score in the red zone.”

Being 2-0, there’s a lot of talk around the Redskins locker room about what great teams - or even playoff or Super Bowl teams - need to do in order to continue fall success into winter. It might be too soon to identify this group as a playoff team, but the red zone struggles are something that could derail those hopes.

Ideally, red zone trips mean touchdowns, but Shanahan singled out certain things that must change - starting with Monday night’s game at Dallas.

“You can’t make the big mistake,” he said. “As you go down the field in the red zone, you can’t jump offsides. Even though you’re tired, you can’t miss an assignment.”

Grossman’s interception and the blocked field goal attempt count as big mistakes - part of a first half in which the Redskins went 2-for-4 in the red zone. The Redskins managed points on all three trips in the second half, providing some cause for optimism.

But the Redskins know that in order to maintain their momentum they’ll have to cash in on their opportunities.

Said Shanahan: “We will learn as we grow as a football team that you have to be able to close the door, and we didn’t close the door.”