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Redskins, last in NFL in second-half scoring, want to fix finishing

October 17, 2018 GMT

ASHBURN, Va. Jay Gruden and Alex Smith like to say that every game is different and serves up its own unique obstacles. While that is true, the pattern among the Washington Redskins’ three wins this year is undeniable: They jump out to a healthy lead in the first half, then struggle to put points on the board after halftime.

In fact, the Redskins have scored 24 points in the second halves of their games so far dead last in the NFL, both as a total and on a per-game basis (4.8 points per second half). Just 23 percent of their points this year have come in the second half.

Further, Smith’s passer rating in the first half this season is 103.9 and in the second half, it’s fallen to 77.8.

“I think it kind of goes back to, every week is a different challenge,” Smith said Wednesday. “So to lump the all together is unfair. I think they all happen for different reasons, it’s not the same thing that’s going on. Certainly something that we want to get remedied, though.”

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In fairness, some of the reason for the offense slowing down can be chalked up to game situations.

“In the Arizona game, we had a pretty big lead so we kind of hunkered down a little bit, tried to run some clock,” Gruden said. “Same with Green Bay. We tried to run the clock a little bit more to try to keep Aaron Rodgers over there tying his shoes. And then last week we had a couple mishaps.”

But Gruden also said it comes down to making better locker-room adjustments at the half and finishing plays.

“We’ve left a lot of plays out there. Schematically we’ll be OK, we’re just not finishing,” he said. “We’ve got to do a better job in that regard, try to get into better situations.”

At the same time, the defense is allowing just 9.6 second-half points per game not enough to lose leads against the Cardinals, Packers and Panthers in Washington’s wins, but enough of a net difference to let their opponents back into those respective games.

Can this formula offense gets ahead early, defense locks it up late be sustained the rest of the year? Defensive captain Mason Foster said playing that way is just part of team football.

“Sometimes you have to play the game like that. Sometimes they’ll pick us up and score a bunch of points when we can’t get stops when we need them, or give us a rest after a long drive by sustaining a drive,” he said. “So if we’re up and we have to stop them at the end of the day, or just keep the lead the whole second half, then that’s the way we have to play and we’re prepared to do it.”

Chris Thompson emphasized that his offensive teammates are not coasting once the team builds a lead, but said “when teams start to adjust, we gotta pick up our intensity a little more.”

Incidentally, the Dallas Cowboys, this week’s opponent, score more points in the second half (67) than in the first (56). They’re coming off a surprise 40-7 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars that proved that the offense, despite its lack of playmaking receivers, can show up at a moment’s notice.

“No, never surprised when teams score a bunch of points like that,” Foster said. “It’s part of the NFL. Teams go up and down. One week, they may not score at all, the next week they may score 50 or whatever.”

Put another way, no lead is too safe.