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Redskins' Run Game Requires Patience

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One cut away. One block away.

That's how close Redskins running backs were from breaking a big gain on Sunday vs. Houston.

The final results, though, would suggest the Redskins have a long way to go in the ground game. They are ranked 31st in the NFL in rushing yards, averaging 53.5 yards per game.

In the 30-27 loss to the Texans at FedExField, the Redskins rushed for just 18 yards on 17 carries. Clinton Portis had a pair of 1-yard touchdown runs, but otherwise posted just 33 yards on 13 carries.

Head coach Mike Shanahan has acknowledged that the Redskins' rushing attack is a work in progress.

"One thing about the running game, you have to be hitting on all cylinders," Shanahan said. "It can be just one guy off just a little bit here, and a 10-yard gain becomes a 2-yard gain. That's what happened through most of the [Texans] game. We had some possibilities there."

Shanahan pointed to several penalties that pushed the offense back and into passing situations.

In particular, there was a key 3rd-and-1 play in the fourth quarter that was pushed back to 3rd-and-6 after right tackle Jammal Brown was flagged for a false start.

The next play, McNabb's pass to Santana Moss was incomplete.

In the game, the Redskins ended up running the ball 17 times and passed the ball 38 times. Quarterback Donovan McNabb had a stellar game, completing 28 of his passes for 426 yards and one touchdown.

"[The run game] is just something we have to keep on working on," he said. "It doesn't happen overnight. I like the direction we're headed. We had some great effort. Our running game wasn't there, but it didn't have to be.

"Anytime you're averaging 7.3 yards per play and you don't turn the football over, you should find a way to win the football game, usually. Unfortunately we didn't. We missed that 3rd-and-1. We had so many opportunities to put it away."

Portis said after Sunday's game that with the passing game excelling, running backs have to wait their turn.

In two games this year, Portis leads the Redskins with 96 yards on 31 carries, a 3.1 yards-per-carry average.

He seems to get better as the game goes on. In the fourth quarter vs. Houston, he reeled off a 12-yard run, a 5-yard run and then a 4-yard run on successive carries.

"Right now as an offense we are throwing the ball around, so you just have to be patient," he said. "When we do get a chance, we have to be consistent."

Larry Johnson got a chance early in the fourth quarter and was stuffed for a 10-yard loss around left end.

It was his last carry of the game.

Rookie Keiland Williams saw action later in the fourth quarter and in overtime.

For much of Johnson's 8-year career, he was a franchise back. He acknowledged on Monday that he is still adjusting to playing a reserve role.

"I just caught up with trying to make a play," Johnson said of his 10-yard loss. "That was really disappointing for the team to go backward 10 yards at a very critical time in the fourth quarter. It's tough, but you have to learn a little bit more, as far as when it's your turn, you get one chance or two chances to put your pride aside and do what's best for the team.

Added Shanahan: "I think it's hard for any running back who has played a lot in the NFL to play in a backup role because they want to carry the rock, which you can understand. A guy like Larry usually gets stronger as the game goes on, so it's a situation he's not used to.

"It takes some time...He did a little bit better on that one cutback run – he might have went for 60 [yards]. Those are the little things. You're a hair away, so you have to keep working at it."

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