Jay Gruden’s Cincinnati Bengals were one of the best red zone teams in the NFL in 2013. They scored a touchdown on 73.9 percent of the drives where they took at least one snap from inside their opponents’ 21 yard line.
The Redskins, on the other hand, were not so efficient. They got into the end zone on 52 percent of their red zone trips (20th).
Let’s play some “what if” here. The Redskins scored 334 points last season. That comes to an average of 20.9 per game, 23rd in the league. How many points might they have scored if they had been as efficient as the Bengals in the red zone?
The Redskins (48 RZ drives) actually made it into the red zone more often than did Cincinnati (46). Washington scored 25 touchdowns on those drives while the Bengals got 34 on theirs.
If the Redskins had scored TD on 73.9 percent of their red zone drives, they would have had 35 touchdowns from the red zone (rounding from 35.4), 10 more than they actually scored.
The Redskins, of course, did not come up empty in all of their red zone trips where they did not score a touchdown. They settled for field goals 14 times on red zone possessions.
So let’s say that they got field goals on each of those 10 red zone possessions where they didn’t get touchdowns due to relative inefficiency there. That would mean they scored 30 where they had the realistic opportunity to score 70, a difference of 40 points.
If they had scored 40 more points they would have had 374 points, exactly the NFL average. They would have ranked 18th in the league instead of 23rd.
Those lost points could have helped in the wins column if they had come at the right times. The most obvious case was the game at home against the Cowboys. Twice the Redskins settled for field goals from the red zone and they lost the game by one. In a few other games leaving points on the table in the red zone left them needing a touchdown to win or tie a game in the late going instead of a field goal.
In the third quarter of the Redskins’ Week 3 game against the Giants, New York drove to a first and goal at the Washington 10. A Trent Murphy sack and two incompletions later, Josh Brown came in and kicked a field goal.
Since then, opponents have had goal to go situations 12 times. They have scored touchdowns on every one of them.
The stop against the Giants was one of just two all year. They had one against the Cowboys in Week 2. Their opponents’ goal to go success rate is 90.5 percent. That’s the second worst in the NFL.
The failures have been costly. On Sunday, the Cardinals recovered a Kirk Cousins fumble and returned it to the Washington 10. The Redskins led 13-10 at the time and coming out of that situation with the game tied would have been large. But on third and goal at the six Carson Palmer hit Michael Floyd with a touchdown pass and the Cardinals had both the lead and the momentum.
Opponents usually haven’t had to work that hard. Teams have run 21 plays in goal to go and they have 10 touchdowns.
On Thanksgiving Day, the Cowboys got to goal to go three times. A stop on any one of them would have been a boost to the Redskins and would have changed the dynamic of the game. But Dallas was three for three.
The goal to go problems are a subset of the Redskins’ problems with red zone defense in general. Opponents have scored touchdowns on 27 of 40 red zone trips, a 67.5 percent success rate that puts the Redskins 30th in the NFL.
The NFC East was a beast for a while, but in recent weeks, the division is fading. All the teams outside of Dallas lost this weekend, and losing streaks are popping up throughout the I-95 Corridor. Here's the NFC East update:
- The Minnesota Vikings gave the Dallas Cowboys all they could handle last Thursday night, and yet, the Cowboys won 17-15. Dak Prescott was not impressive in Minneapolis, but Ezekiel Elliott was and the Cowboys defense did just enough to slow the Vikings terrible offense. At 11-1, Dallas has clinched a playoff berth, and with a date in New York this Sunday night, Jerry Jones' crew has a chance to avenge their only loss of the year, which came in Week 1 to the Giants.
- It seemed expectations met reality for the New York Giants last Sunday in Pittsburgh. Ben McAdoo's team had won six games in a row, but largely, faced poor competition. In their first tough test since the leaves started falling, Eli Manning's offense could not get going and the Giants fell to 8-4, still in possession of the first NFC Wild Card spot. Even on their win streak, the Giants didn't pass many eye tests. Beat Dallas on Sunday night and all that changes.
- Two weeks ago the Washington Redskins were one of the hottest teams in the NFL. Winners of two straight and with a surging Kirk Cousins, the Redskins marched to Dallas on Thanksgiving and gave the Cowboys a real test. Despite the loss, Washington still held its spot with the second NFC Wild Card. After a deflating loss in Arizona, now the 'Skins are on the outside looking in of the playoffs. Good news for Jay Gruden and company: The team can get right back in the thick of things this week in Philly, and the remaining four-game schedule looks advantageous.
- While the Redskins have lost two in a row and are in danger of falling out of the playoff race, the Philadelphia Eagles have lost three in a row and look to be falling apart. Rookie QB Carson Wentz is devoid of offensive weapons to work with and the Eagles have been outscored 85-42 in their last three games. Philly can get their first NFC East win this week with the 'Skins visiting, but it will take a different effort than they've shown in the last month.
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