- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 15, 2015

ASHBURN — Each week that the Washington Redskins’ running game has struggled, which has been frequently this season, coach Jay Gruden remained adamant that it would not be abandoned regardless of how ineffective it was.

That was difficult to do, though, when the game flow dictated otherwise. The most troublesome stretch occurred during the middle of the season when the Redskins rushed for a combined 172 yards in four games against the Atlanta Falcons, New York Jets, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New England Patriots. In those four games, the Redskins averaged 19 carries.

On Sunday, the Redskins rushed for 99 yards on 33 attempts, an average of 3.0 yards per carry in a 24-21 win against the Chicago Bears. Quarterback Kirk Cousins completed 24 of 31 passes for 300 yards and a touchdown and an interception. While the production is still not where Gruden wants it to be, the run game was efficient enough to allow the Redskins to be balanced in their approach.

The best example was on the first drive, a 15-play, 80-yard sequence that ended with an Alfred Morris touchdown and took eight minutes and 30 seconds off the clock. Morris carried the ball eight times on the drive for 17 yards. Morris finished the game with 11 carries. Matt Jones rushed 18 times for 62 yards. 

In a 20-14 win against the New York Giants in Week 12, the Redskins rushed 37 times for 105 yards, or 2.8 yards per carry. The following week against the Dallas Cowboys, Washington rushed 26 times for 73 yards — also 2.8 yards per carry. Cousins attempted 29 and 31 passes against the Giants and Cowboys, respectively.

The Redskins are hardly running like the team that rushed for 343 yards in the first two weeks of the season, but that has been evident long before now. The biggest difference now is that the rushing attack is productive enough where Cousins does not have to attempt 40 or more passes a game, like he did against the Jets, Buccaneers and Patriots.

“We’d definitely like to do better than we’ve done, that’s for sure,” Gruden said. “Having Kirk throw the ball 31 times in the game, and we rushed the ball right around 30 times, I think that’s a great recipe for us. I’ve said that all along. We’ve got to get our average up, though.

“When we’re running on first down, we’re getting one or two yards. I think in the first half we averaged 2.5 yards per carry. Again, [we] challenged the guys at halftime and they upped the ante a little bit, but still, we need to demand a little bit more from our running game but the commitment is there. We’ve just got to do better at blocking and running.”

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