It was obvious to everyone, including those watching and listening to the post-game press conference on Redskins.com, that head coach Joe Gibbs was unhappy about his offense's performance last Friday. The Redskins lost to the Cincinnati Bengals 24-17 in the preseason game at FedExField on Aug. 19.
At first glance, the statistics would suggest an impressive offensive performance by the Redskins.
The offense racked up 392 total yards of offense against the Bengals, including 291 passing yards in a joint effort by quarterbacks Patrick Ramsey and Mark Brunell.
The Redskins rushed for 101 yards despite not having Clinton Portis available for the game. Portis has played one offensive series so far this preseason and he sat out the Bengals game due to a sore elbow, an injury not considered serious.
Overall, there were seven offensive plays of 20 yards or more and another five plays of 15 yards or more.
So what was the problem? In the Redskins' two preseason games, both losses, the offense has turned the ball over seven times.
Against Cincinnati, Ramsey threw two interceptions and rookie running back Nehemiah Broughton fumbled on the Redskins' last offensive play of the game, ending a rally to tie the game.
"I spent a lot of time discussing that with the team," Gibbs said on Saturday. "We were doing good things, but we kept on hurting ourselves with turnovers. If you don't protect the football, you lose football games. Until we learn to protect the football, we are going to be fighting an uphill battle."
Against the Bengals, Ramsey's two first-half interceptions were the most worrisome. Both came in the red zone, ending scoring opportunities.
Gibbs said he has the patience to work through this inconsistent stretch with his starting quarterback. For the game, Ramsey was 9-of-18 for 190 yards and one touchdown to go along with the two interceptions.
"I think Patrick would tell you [the interceptions] were bad decisions," Gibbs said. "It happens sometimes at quarterback. We have to learn from it. So far this year, we've been on the negative side of the turnover ratio in two games. Last year, what hurt us the first part of the year were turnovers. We've got to somehow grasp that.
"We'll work on extra things this week. We'll put an emphasis on 30-yard line and in, because the game plan changes when you get to that point. We can do all of those things but in the end, it comes down to guys taking it to heart, whether it's the running back protecting the football or the quarterback protecting the football."
After Friday's game, Ramsey took responsibility for his two interceptions.
"If you don't learn from your mistakes, then it's all for nothing--especially in the preseason," Ramsey said. "We place an importance on taking care of the football and I didn't do a very good job of that. I got some looks in that game that I can definitely learn from."
In the locker room after Friday's game, players were frustrated with the turnovers while also recognizing that the offense showed signs of improvement.
"We were a lot more aggressive this game," said wide receiver James Thrash, who caught a 25-yard touchdown from Ramsey in the first quarter. "The offense went out and really attacked the defense. We didn't really care what the defense was showing."
Added right tackle Jon Jansen: "We came in with a pretty good game plan and when things clicked, it worked real well. I don't think there's anything the Bengals did to stop us, we kept stopping ourselves with turnovers and penalties.
Broughton's turnover overshadowed a fine performance by the rookie from The Citadel.
It occurred just after the two-minute warning. Broughton caught a pass in the flat from Brunell and turned up-field. The ball was poked loose by the Bengals' defensive end Greg Scott, a former Redskin. It was recovered by defensive tackle Shaun Smith.
"Certainly I can look at this as part of a learning process," Broughton said. "But I'm a running back. First thing you do is learn to hold on to the ball. I know I'm not supposed to do it, so I don't want to look at it as part of the learning. It's a mistake that shouldn't be made."
Broughton rushed for 23 yards on seven carries and logged a 3-yard touchdown run--his second TD of the preseason--in the fourth quarter. He also caught five passes for 45 yards.
"I'd say two weeks in a row, [Broughton] has been pretty impressive," Gibbs said. "I give all the credit to [running backs coach] Earnest Byner on [Broughton]. He came back and gave us a full report and then promoted him as someone we ought to add to the program."