- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 21, 2019

ASHBURN — There are alternatives to watching the Washington Redskins and the Detroit Lions at FedEx Field on Sunday. There’s Thanksgiving grocery shopping. The matinee of “A Christmas Carol” at Ford’s Theatre. Maybe that new exhibit of post-impressionists at the Phillips.

Sunday’s Redskins’s game, after all, is a matchup of a 1-9 team against a 3-6-1 club potentially missing its starting quarterback (Matthew Stafford) for the third straight week.

But if you can’t quit the Redskins, if you find yourself pulling the trigger on $4 tickets in nose-bleed seats (lots available), there has been at least one saving grace this year: The games, by NFL standards, are over pretty quick.

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Entering Week 12, the average Redskins game has lasted just 2 hours and 57 minutes in 2019.

Based on a Washington Times analysis of the duration of every game dating back to 2002, when the NFL expanded to 32 teams, the Redskins are the first team since 2011 to average a game under three hours.

In that span, only two teams — the 2008 Indianapolis Colts and the 2009 Jacksonville Jaguars, both clocking in at two hours and 55 minutes per game — have averaged a quicker rate.

Sub-three-hour games bucks the trend.

The average NFL game in 2019 runs three hours and eight minutes.

“Sometimes when you’re out there on the field and you do a couple drives and you’re two drives in … it’s like, ‘Dang it’s the second quarter already?’” Redskins running back Chris Thompson said. “You do have those moments out there.

“But I had no clue that was the case.”

Through 10 games, the Redskins have finished under three hours in five, three of those since Bill Callahan was promoted to interim coach last month. Their shortest outing came a month ago when the Redskins and San Francisco 49ers finished a muddy Oct. 20 meeting in just two hours and 36 minutes — the quickest NFL game since 2009.

On that afternoon, a 9-0 Redskins‘ loss, the two teams combined for 65 rushing attempts, content to keep the ball on the ground and let the clock tick on a dreary, rainy Sunday.

Rushing attempts, of course, matter heavily when factoring the length of the game. There’s a belief that establishing the run allows for teams to control the pace — a mantra Callahan strongly believes in. “It sends a message,” he said after taking over for former coach Jay Gruden, his famously pass-happy predecessor.

With Callahan in charge since Week 6, the Redskins have run the ball nearly 51% of the time. That’s a sharp turnaround from Gruden, who ran it 33% of the time through the first five weeks.

Running the ball effectively, the theory goes, can help a team control the clock.

But the Redskins‘ run game isn’t moving the chains. Washington ranks last among teams in offensive plays run with just 532, and the team is also last in time of possession.

Opponents putting together lengthy drives on the team’s porous defense exacerbates that stat.

“We haven’t been in some good situations, either,” Thompson said. “So of course those games will go by faster when those teams know they can just run the ball and get the game over with quickly.”

Ironically, the Redskins are coming off their longest game of the year — a 34-17 loss to the New York Jets that lasted three hours and 16 minutes — an ugly performance in which Washington trailed by as many as 31 and committed too many clock-stopping penalties.

The game prompted fans to chant “Sell the team!” in the fourth quarter, though most in attendance had already left by then.

“I feel bad for our fans,” Callahan said Monday. “Our fans come to the game and expect a quality product to be put on the field and it wasn’t displayed (against the Jets) and that’s what eats at me. That’s what bothers me. I feel I let our fans down in that respect and it falls on my shoulders. I accept that.”

At this point, however, it’s fair to assume the fan base just wants the season to be over.

Tickets for Sunday’s game were selling Thursday for as little as $4 on SeatGeek, a secondary ticket website. According to TickPick, another secondary site, the Redskins-Lions‘ matchup is the least expensive game in the NFL this week.

Last week against the Jets, the Redskins reported an official attendance of just 56,426, the lowest-attended game at FedEx Field of the season. It wouldn’t be a surprise if that number dips even lower Sunday, given the Lions aren’t as high-profile as, say, the New England Patriots or Dallas Cowboys, whose fans have invaded Washington’s stadium this season.

On the bright side, the game has a good chance of being over with quickly.

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