‘What running game?’ Mike Shanahan, Redskins lament rushing woes

Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan stared straight ahead as he pondered the question, blinked once or twice and let his silence convey his thoughts.

What did he think of his team’s running game in Monday’s disappointing 33-27 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles?


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“What running game?” Shanahan cracked.

He was only half joking. The Redskins had 28 rushing yards in the first half on nine attempts and fumbled twice. The offense was better in the second half, but mostly through the air as Washington tried desperately to erase a 33-7 deficit early in the third quarter. Washington produced 46 yards on the ground in the second half for 74 rushing yards total.

“That’s not going to do it, and we all know that,” Shanahan said. “And we just talked about why we did that. I was pleased with the way we came back, with the way we came out. We did some good things, except for that first turnover, and we fell a little bit short.”

Running back Alfred Morris finished with 45 rushing yards and a fumble on his team’s first offensive play of the season. Morris, who lost the ball just four times last season, also mishandled a questionable toss from quarterback Robert Griffin III inside the 5-yard line that led to a safety. It was that kind of start and put the Redskins in a hole they couldn’t climb out of.

“I was shocked to start like that,” Morris said. “It was not the way I envisioned the first game going, the first quarter going. It was a rough start. Most people get in the tank. But I didn’t get in the tank and it helped having the coaches and teammates rallying around me.”

Morris only had five carries for 19 yards in the second half, but said he was thankful the coaches kept him in the game after that start. His rushing total was a career low in 17 games. His previous worst day was Oct. 4, 2012 against Minnesota with 47 yards on 16 carries.

“It was frustrating, but at the same time I shook it off,” Morris said. “In this game you have to have a short-term memory. That’s probably some of the best advice I got coming through football.”

Morris had 12 carries total against Philadelphia, also a career low. The only other players to carry the ball for Washington on Monday night were Griffin (five carries, 24 yards) and Roy Helu, who had five rushing yards on just one attempt. The deficit was too great, too fast and the early results weren’t there to justify more.

“You’ve just got to go through those mistakes,” Shanahan said. “If you take a look at the first play and you take a look at the fumble, Alfred Morris gets hit all the time in practice. He wraps up, we work on turnovers and it is very unusual for him to have that type of mistake.”

The Redskins might have to get used to this, however. Pundits who questioned if the team could repeat its NFC East title from 2012 have often used the argument that Washington’s turnover ratio from last season was unsustainable. The Redskins lost the ball just 14 times, the lowest mark in franchise history.

“One of the best stats that tells whether you win or lose the game is turnovers,” center Will Montgomery said when asked about the team’s best players faltering so quickly. “That’s just crazy stuff. You’re definitely not expecting that. It’s definitely hard to overcome, but we gave it a good effort.”

Morris‘ fumble hurt. Griffin’s two interceptions did as well. Washington forced two fumbles of its own on the defensive side, including a critical one in the fourth quarter by defensive back Josh Wilson that set up a short touchdown drive and provided hope. It just proved six points too short.

“It was just mistake after mistake. We shot ourselves in the foot with that,” fullback Darrel Young said. “It will be addressed Wednesday at the team meeting. That’s something we need to get better at. We went on that streak last year and it was a plus margin for us in terms of turnover ratio.”

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