- The Washington Times - Monday, December 21, 2015

ASHBURN — After last Thursday’s practice, Jay Gruden was asked about the process behind the Washington Redskins’ offensive play-calling process.

Like most coaches would, Gruden gave a rather vague description. Offensive coordinator Sean McVay is at the helm, Gruden carefully explained, but that there is lots of input, based on the planning during the week or what Gruden and offensive line coach Bill Callahan are thinking at certain moments of the game.

“Sean talks to the quarterback based on recommendations from myself or Bill,” Gruden said on Thursday. “If he’s in a flow, we just let him go. If I want to interject and throw a play in there, we will. Whoever calls the play, recommends the play, is really insignificant. It’s about the execution of the play. We feel good about the way we’re executing the play-calling system.”

During the Redskins’ 35-25 win against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, the offense was certainly flowing, regardless of that process. The offense began running at a high level after the opening kickoff, when quarterback Kirk Cousins directed a 10-play, 84-yard drive that ended with a three-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jordan Reed. The balance of the offense is what stood out the most.

Cousins completed all six of his passes on that drive. Running back Alfred Morris ran four times. The Redskins mixed up the play calling, which helped open up a 28-yard pass to wide receiver DeSean Jackson down the right sideline.

In the third quarter, on the Redskins’ 13-play, 80-yard scoring drive, Cousins attempted seven passes. Washington ran the ball the other six times.

The offense has had great success during the last two weeks, and that balance is a big part of it. On Sunday, Cousins attempted 28 passes. The Redskins rushed 27 times. In a win against the Chicago Bears a week before, Cousins attempted 31 passes compared to the team’s 33 rushing attempts.

It’s a far departure from what the Redskins’ offense was experiencing earlier this season, when the lagging running game forced the offense to become one-dimensional.

For Gruden, the hope is that the Redskins can keep the momentum going into Saturday night’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles with a chance to clinch the NFC East at stake.

“The running game, we rushed for over 100 yards yesterday, which was great,” Gruden said on Monday. “The play-actions, the nakeds, the keepers, whatever you call them, were very successful for us. As long as we maintain our balance, I think [Cousins will] have good success. It’s when we get behind and get in the third down-and-longs where we become one-dimensional like we were on the road against New England, like we were against the New York Jets in the third and fourth quarter. That’s where we’ve had our troubles.”

On Sunday, the Redskins only faced third down five times in the first half and converted four of them. Three of the chances were third-and-1, one was third-and-7 and the other was third-and-goal from the Bills’ 13-yard line, which Cousins converted on a touchdown run.

“I think play-calling today was outstanding, it put me in a position to be successful,” Cousins said after the win. “We very rarely got in third-and-long, especially in the first half, which enabled us to dictate the terms on first and second down and have a run-pass mix, play-action pass and bootleg. Really want to credit Jay and Sean for the play-calling they put together because it put me in a position to be successful.”

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