- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 2, 2006

They know it’s happening too often, and they know it has cost them too many games.

But the Washington Redskins have no idea why they have struggled in the second half this season. They have been outscored 86-52, have averaged 19 fewer yards of offense and have given up more big plays, all the while squandering three halftime leads.

As the Redskins prepared to return to action Sunday against Dallas, whose 122 second-half points are third most in the NFL, they searched for explanations.

Receiver Brandon Lloyd: “Hey, if I had an answer, I wouldn’t be afraid to talk about it because I’m honest. But I really don’t know.”

Tight end Mike Sellers: “If we did know, it’d be fixed.”

Defensive end Phillip Daniels: “I don’t know why it’s happening, but now it’s about everybody coming together after halftime.”

The Redskins’ 34-point differential is the sixth worst in the league. Are the Redskins being out-adjusted during the 12-minute halftime?

“That could be, and it’s something you could make a case for, but I would hope that’s not the case,” coach Joe Gibbs said. “Certainly everything we’re doing leads to our second half. The [problem after halftime] is a fact, and it’s something we’ve looked at.”

Second-half excellency was a Gibbs trademark during his first 14 seasons with the Redskins. The team outscored its opponents by an average of 177.4-149.9 a season in the second half and overtime. Only three times has a Gibbs-coached Redskins team been outscored in the second half and overtime for a season.

This season, the Redskins are on pace to be outscored 197-119.

“One thing we’ve prided ourselves on here is playing well in the second half,” Gibbs said.

But like a lot of things this season, a 2005 strength hasn’t carried over. The Redskins had three come-from-behind wins last season and outscored opponents 176-152 in the second half.

Already this year, the Redskins have blown the three halftime leads, equaling their 2005 total.

“We have to play a whole game,” right tackle Jon Jansen said. “The concentration goes from penalties to lining up right to running the play right to finishing a ballgame. That’s all part of concentration.”

Offensively, the Redskins average 172.4 yards and 12.6 points in the first half but only 153.3 points and 7.4 points in the second half. They also have 19 “big plays” — runs of 10-plus yards or passes of 20-plus yards — in the second half, six less than in the first half.

“It’s about putting it together on a consistent basis,” associate head coach-offense Al Saunders said. “And that’s really hard in this league to do. Every game, we’ve had some long drives, but we want to be like we were against Jacksonville, where we had four, five big plays in the second half.”

Defensively, the Redskins have allowed nearly the same yardage (176.1 in the first half, 174.0 in the second) and have allowed one more point (85 to 86). The defense has struggled the most giving up big plays and getting off the field in the second half. Opponents have 17 first-half big plays and 29 in the second half; the Redskins have forced 13 three-and-outs in the first half but only five in the second half.

“We have a lot of guys that are trying to do too much, and if we just do our own jobs, that will take care of a lot of things,” Daniels said.

The Redskins blew home halftime leads to Minnesota in Week 1, when a 13-9 advantage turned into a 19-16 defeat, and to Tennessee in Week 6, when a 14-13 lead morphed into a 25-22 loss.

But the Indianapolis game was a microcosm of the season.

The Redskins’ first three drives in the second half: Punt, punt, missed field goal.

The Colts’ first three drives: Touchdown, touchdown, touchdown. Indianapolis turned a 14-13 deficit into a 36-22 victory.

Jansen said the key to turning around the second-half struggles is not letting one penalty or one three-and-out cast a pall over the entire team.

“When you’re 2-5, you start pressing for a lot of things,” he said. “We have to get in control of that, and it all comes back to concentration. You can’t let the little things bother you. When something bad does happen, we have to do a better job of overcoming it and not letting it get to us.”

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