- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 7, 2014

HOUSTON — Heading up the left sideline, Andre Roberts appeared to have a clear path for a strong punt return. That ended quickly when teammate Darrel Young slammed into Roberts, knocking him out of bounds.

Turns out, that wasn’t the biggest special teams concern.

A year after special teams was a front-to-back mess for the Redskins, Sunday’s opener had its issues. Namely, a blocked punt that produced one of two Houston touchdowns on the day.

“There’s a couple plays in that game where you just scratch your head at,” coach Jay Gruden said.

The punters volleyed field position throughout the first half. A coverage bust by safety Bacarri Rambo led to Houston’s first score, a 76-yard touchdown. The blocked punt by backup running back Alfred Blue produced the Texans’ only other touchdown.

Blue came off the left side, cut inside on Roy Helu Jr., and had a clear line toward punter Tress Way, who was making his NFL debut. He easily blocked the punt with two hands, scooped it at the 5-yard line and ran it in with just 2:09 remaining in the first half.

“Being lefty, my body faces left a little more and when he came across,” Way said. “I let go of it and he could have just picked it out of my hand instead of blocking it. He just put his hands right on my foot and it turned out to be a huge play.”

Said Helu: “Honestly, he beat me, and I take full responsibility for that. He got me inside, and I didn’t set heavy inside. I should have.”

Kai Forbath also had an extra point blocked by the omnipresent J.J. Watt.

Special teams coverage was improved, at least for a week. Last season, the Redskins allowed a league-leading 16.8 yards per punt return. Sunday, they gave up just an average of seven yards in four punts. The Redskins allowed 28 yards in the only kickoff return of the day.

Second-half turnovers stall Redskins

At the Houston 11-yard line, the Redskins’ first drive of the second half ended with a turnover. They trumped that by ending their second possession of the second half with a turnover at the Houston 9-yard line. Both were crucial.

Robert Griffin III said the first was his fault. He stepped back to hand off to Alfred Morris and tripped over the leg of right guard Kory Lichtensteiger. Watt recovered the fumble.

“I just can’t let that happen,” Griffin said. “I’ve got to fall on the ball there and just eat it. That was my mistake there.”

Five minutes later, Griffin put up a soft and on-point pass over the middle to tight end Niles Paul. Paul caught it, ran for a 48-yard gain, then was caught from behind by Houston safety D.J. Swearinger. He knocked the ball loose and Houston again recovered.

“I felt him grab my left side and I was trying to pull through,” Paul said. “I lost control of my right side and he popped the ball out. I don’t know how.”

Orakpo frustrated, but feels fine physically

Outside linebacker Brian Orakpo (ankle) was questionable for the game but played all afternoon.

Afterward, he said he was sore.

The things that irritated Orakpo the most were two personal fouls — one against the Texans and one against the Redskins. Each hit appeared to be centered in the quarterback’s chest, yet the flags were thrown.

“You’re fighting so hard, then you get in a situation where you don’t really know how to target the quarterback, at times,” Orakpo said. “I understand what the league is trying to do, protect the quarterbacks, clean up the big hits. At the same time, I don’t know, maybe we should start reviewing those types of hits. Those are big momentum-type plays. Maybe we should review them and see where the target initially is.”

Reed, Cofield leave with injuries

Tight end Jordan Reed (hamstring) and nose tackle Barry Cofield (ankle sprain) left the with first-half injuries.

Reed injured his hamstring after making a 4-yard reception, his first of the game, with 1:26 remaining in the first quarter. He was hit first by Texans free safety Kendrick Lewis, who lunged at Reed’s right leg, then was hit from behind by middle linebacker Brian Cushing.

“I think Jordan Reed’s hamstring is a concern, but all hamstrings are,” Gruden said.

Cofield left the field with roughly two minutes remaining in the half with what was described as an ankle injury. It wasn’t immediately clear how Cofield injured the ankle.

Defensive tackle Jason Hatcher (ankle) left the game but returned.

Texans outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney, the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft in May, also left the field and headed to the locker room to be evaluated for an unspecified injury moments after Cofield retreated.

Wide receiver Moss inactive

Wide receiver Santana Moss was inactive for the Redskins on Sunday, marking the first time in his 10 seasons with the team he has been a healthy scratch.

Moss, the team’s backup slot receiver, has not been inactive since Week 11 in 2011, when he missed the last of four games after breaking a bone in his left hand. He had occasionally missed games in previous seasons because of a groin injury.

In all, Moss has played in 136 of 144 games since being traded from the New York Jets following the 2004 season.

Also inactive for Washington on Sunday were rookie offensive linemen Morgan Moses and Spencer Long, third quarterback Colt McCoy and defensive end Frank Kearse.

The team previously ruled out cornerback Tracy Porter with a strained hamstring and inside linebacker Akeem Jordan with a sprained MCL in his left knee. Neither player was able to practice at all this past week.

Griffin not among Redskins captains

Redskins players voted on the captains for the season, and Griffin was not among them.

Tackle Trent Williams (offense), cornerback DeAngelo Hall (defense) and linebacker Adam Hayward (special teams) were named season captains.

Orakpo and Morris were also selected by Gruden as game captains for Sunday.

Griffin was a captain last year. In 2012, he was voted a captain following the bye week midway through the season.

Rambo has one big miscue

Strong safety Brandon Meriweather’s two-game suspension for a hit in the preseason pushed Rambo into the starting strong safety spot Sunday. He missed a tackle that led to a 76-yard score — and Houston’s only offensive touchdown.

Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins got loose from Rambo before juking him in the open field for the score.

“Yeah, it was poor,” Gruden said. “It was poor. We all saw it. It was poor. A poor angle, a poor tackle, a poor attempt at a tackle, and it led to a huge play in the game.”

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