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Goal to Go: Converting In the Red Zone

The Redskins' offense has shown considerable improvement as the regular season heads into the final stretch, but the unit still needs some fine-tuning, head coach Joe Gibbs said on Saturday night.

Specifically, the Redskins' red zone offense has been inconsistent this season. During Saturday's 26-16 win over the San Francisco 49ers, the Redskins had a 1st-and-goal inside the 49ers' 10-yard line three times. All three times, the Redskins had to settle for field goals.

Gibbs credited the 49ers' defense for a different alignment that they had not shown previously.

"They gave us some different looks down there," Gibbs said. "We had some guys miss some assignments, mainly because [the 49ers] changed some fronts on us that we weren't expecting."

Gibbs and assistant head coach-offense Joe Bugel have said that they hope to instill a run-oriented identity in the Redskins' offense. So it's no secret that the Redskins hope to pound the ball in goal-line situations.

Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts have found running room tough to come by at the goal line. A recent example occurred in Saturday's game against San Francisco: on a 1st-and-goal at the 4-yard line in the third quarter, Portis was stuffed for a 10-yard loss.

Redskins kicker Jeff Chandler converted the 26-yard field goal, but a touchdown scored in that situation would have cemented the win earlier in the game.

Despite compiling 1,286 yards on the ground so far this season, Portis has only four rushing touchdowns this season--and one of those touchdowns was the 64-yard run in Week 1 against Tampa Bay on his first carry as a Redskin.

Including the San Francisco game, the Redskins have been stopped short of a touchdown 12 times when they have advanced inside an opponent's 10-yard line.

Oftentimes, the Redskins have been forced to throw in goal-line situations. H-back Chris Cooley has become a favorite target in the red zone; he has five touchdown catches this season.

With the 5-11, 205-pound Portis and the 5-10, 222-pound Betts, the Redskins lack a sizable running back who can bulldoze across the goal line, similar to Jerome Bettis of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Bettis is 5-11 and 250 pounds--those types of backs are not so easy to find.

For now, Gibbs is focusing on establishing the offense's identity with the personnel at hand.

"You would like to develop a formula over a period of time that your team buys into and has confidence in," Gibbs said. "That's what we're trying to do here. We're trying to build something that we can hang our hat on."

Patrick Ramsey said after Saturday's game that the offense is starting to feed off of the success of the defense. And as the offense continues to progress, it goes both ways, he said.

"But I think at the same time, we could have lost the [49ers] game if our defense hadn't played so well, because we didn't score touchdowns when we got down there [near the goal line]," Ramsey said. "We had to settle for field goals. We're contributing more than we have, but probably not as much as we'd like to contribute."

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