ASHBURN, Va. -- The first pass should have resulted in a first down around midfield. The second one could have been a big play deep in Denver territory. And the third would have picked up 20 yards and a first down.
They came one right after the other. They also illustrate an example of what went wrong with the Washington Redskins' passing attack during a 45-21 loss to the Broncos.
“It's a little bit of everything,” Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said.
And those three plays in the fourth quarter show what he's talking about. There were many examples from Sunday that could be used, this sequence illustrated their woes. Receiver Josh Morgan was wide open on a deep post, but quarterback Robert Griffin III threw behind him and the pass was incomplete instead of a first down just inside the 50.
On the second play, receiver Pierre Garcon broke through a double team beyond the Broncos' 35-yard line. It's a low-percentage pass, but Garcon did have a step on both defenders. Egregious? No. A missed chance? Yes.
Then, on third down, Griffin was under pressure but delivered a catchable ball as he was hit to receiver Aldrick Robinson. But Robinson, who had to reach up for the ball, failed to make the catch. Two promising plays, and a third opportunity, resulted in no yards and a punt.
“Sometimes it may be the quarterback's read,” Shanahan said. “Other times it may be protection. Other times it may be a dropped ball. The offense just may be a little different than a year ago. A combination of all those things.”
The numbers suggest the passing game is much different than a year ago. Griffin averages 7.0 yards per pass attempt compared to 8.1 as a rookie, perhaps a function of less play action (and therefore less ability to get the coverage out of position) as well as some bad throws. The receivers average just 11.8 per catch after securing 12.6 in 2012. Some frustration is growing; after Sunday's game Garcon said, "If you suck at passing, you suck at passing." Not everyone was that blunt.
“I can't point to one thing or two things,” said Redskins receiver Santana Moss, who dropped a touchdown pass in the second quarter. “You have to make plays when the play gets presented to you. If you don't make plays, you're in the situation we're in now.”
There was pressure on Griffin when linemen missed their men; Griffin was drilled by Terrance Knighton after guard Kory Lichtensteiger missed his block. Another time left tackle Trent Williams slipped and linebacker Von Miller beat him for a sack/fumble. Add it up and there are too many things going wrong in the passing game. They were all on display Sunday as Griffin completed 15-of-30 passes for 132 yards and was sacked three times.
Before the season started Griffin had hoped he could grow as a passer without the benefit of a full offseason. That's not how it's played out.
“Everything is a growing experience,” Shanahan said. “The more reps you get the better off you get. But if you ask if there's one reason, I can't say just one. It's a combination of a lot of different things. Sometimes you may see a guy wide open and it may be a missed read or it may be a dropped ball, it may just be a missed assignment. It may be somebody getting beat. It's all those things.”