LANDOVER — At least Washington’s offense has the season-opening first half to remember. The number of forgettable quarters since then is now six and counting.
The Redskins’ scintillating 30 minutes against Philadelphia were a distant memory Sunday as they hosted the Dallas Cowboys in a 31-21 loss. Quarterback Case Keenum reverted to a pumpkinlike journeyman. The young receiving corps resembled meek mice per the preseason projections.
One similarity was halfback Adrian Peterson. Like Derrius Guice in Week 1, Peterson might as well have donned glass slippers for his carries (10 for 25 yards), though he passed Jim Brown on the all-time list for rushing touchdowns.
It just seems like the clock struck midnight at halftime in Week 1 and the Redskins’ offense woke up from a fairy tale beginning.
“We’d all like to throw touchdowns every play and throw deep bombs to everybody,” Keenum said Sunday, after connecting on two of the former and none of the latter. “It’d be great if we can throw it to (tight end Vernon Davis) in the flat and he jumps over people. Those are incredible, incredible plays that those guys made.”
There was no such magic against the Cowboys.
Washington managed just 255 yards of total offense, 75 of which came on its last possession, when the game was out of reach. If you subtract that TD drive from Keenum’s totals, he’s left with 146 passing yards and a short scoring pass that cut the deficit to 21-14.
Keenum hit rookie Terry McLaurin on a 1-yard pass to produce the final score with 2:20 remaining. There also was a garbage-time TD — with six seconds left — against the Eagles. That means Washington’s scoring output through two games can be broken down in pitiful fashion.
First half against Philly: 20 points.
Competitive portion of the last six quarters: 14 points.
Perhaps coming out on fire was a mirage. Have we seen Washington’s offense regress to its mean since then? “Sometimes you have to grind it out and it may not look pretty either,” Keenum said. “But nobody expects to be average,” Keenum. “We all want to score 100 points per game.”
At this rate, it’ll be 100 points every five games.
Washington could help by getting out of its way. Jay Gruden’s squad isn’t merely shooting itself in the foot; it’s hobbling itself like Kathy Bates did to James Caan in “Misery.”
The offense was encumbered with first-down holding penalties on three of its initial four possessions. Keenum & Co. overcame one such setback to open the scoring on Peterson’s 1-yard plunge. But defensive end Montez Sweat contributed to the act later in the second quarter, albeit on a flimsy roughing-the-passer penalty, helping to set up the Cowboys’ go-ahead touchdown.
As Dallas was scoring on five consecutive drives, Washington was struggling and failing to keep up. The lone bright spot was the 11-play, 70-yard march that resulted in McLaurin’s second career TD catch. That was also the home team’s lone possession in the third quarter because the defense couldn’t get off the field.
Dallas wound up with 474 yards of total offense, including 213 on the ground. To further illustrate how far Washington has fallen, its 255 total yards were less than its first-half total (278) in Week 1.
“It’s a combination of things,” Gruden said in explaining the drop-off. “Both games in the second half we got down by a couple of scores. We kind of got out of our rhythm. We had some really good flashes. It seems like when we do efficient football, something happens where it’s a holding call, or a loss of five, or something like that that kills the drive.”
If it’s not one thing, it’s a dozen.
The degree of difficulty will remain high next week when Chicago visits FedEx Field for Monday Night Football. The Bears held Green Bay to 10 points in an opening win and limited Denver to 14 points on Sunday. Gruden could have plenty more postgame opportunities to explain what went wrong.
“It’s the NFL,” Keenum said of the struggles against two stout defenses. “Everybody is good.”
Maybe so. But everybody isn’t good enough.
At least not good enough to win either of their first two games or last six quarters.
⦁ Deron Snyder writes his award-winning column for The Washington Times on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Follow him on Twitter @DeronSnyder.
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