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Redskins Still Struggling to Touch Down In End Zone

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The Washington Redskins won't push the panic button.

They can't.

It's hidden in the end zone, a place which they apparently are forbidden to visit.

Touchdowns? Not for your local heroes. These guys would need a visa, letters of safe passage and native guides to cross the goal line.

Devin Thomas dropped a touchdown pass. Mike Sellers dropped a touchdown pass. Santana Moss killed a late drive in the first half with a fumble that was awarded to the St. Louis Rams after an instant-replay review.

Same story, different week. The ball moves up the field and the ball moves down the field. It does not cross the goal line.

Perhaps it is repelled by a supernatural force. An invisible barrier. A shield. The Redskins look like one team between the 20-yard lines and another in the red zone. Make that the dead zone.

"It's frustrating," quarterback Jason Campbell said. "You would like to score points."

The Redskins ultimately prevailed, 9-7. That's a W, though it seems more like a V, coming as it did against the Rams. It marked the first time the point-starved Redskins have won without scoring a touchdown since knocking off the Chicago Bears 9-7 on opening day in 2005.

This did not have to be a struggle. It could have been the offensive explosion so long missing.

"We had two dropped touchdown passes that would have put us up 14-0," Campbell said. "That would have given us a completely different game."

Ah, this was familiar. And familiarity breeds contempt.

The Redskins trailed 7-6 at halftime. They used 26 plays and gained 147 yards without scoring a touchdown. So through the season's first six quarters the offense could boast one score. When the Redskins went ahead 9-7 on Shaun Suisham's 23-yard field, those totals moved to 40 plays and 221 yards. Make that seven quarters and eventually eight.

The boos began when the Rams took the lead 3:56 before halftime. Laurent Robinson ran the fade pattern everyone expected, with the possible exception of the cornerback covering him, DeAngelo Hall. The Rams overcame a drop in the end zone by tight end Randy McMichael to score but they only came closing to doing it again one more time.

The boos? Half-hearted. The booing of those too stunned to really generate the sort of anger this performance deserved. The Rams? The Rams??? The Rams who lost 28-0 in their opener to the Seattle Seahawks? The Rams? Who fumbled the opening kickoff of their opener, who blocked a field goal while having 12 men on the field? The Rams? With their new coach and a roster more "who's he?" than "who's who?"

"It is what it is," said center Casey Rabach. "The fans are showing their disapproval."

No stunner there.

So desperate grew the desire to put six on the board (in some other way than two field goals) that coach Jim Zorn twice eschewed a field goal that would have given the Redskins a five-point lead. Twice, in the waning minutes. These gambits deserve at least a second look, with one succeeding and one failing and neither impacting the score.

With fourth-and-1 from the St. Louis 20 with 3:47 left, Zorn sent Clinton Portis off the left side and he gained nine yards. That, unfortunately, put the Redskins close to the end zone, where only trouble lurks.

Three plays later, and at the 2:00 warning, the Redskins faced fourth-and-1 again, now at the Rams 4. Shouldn't Suisham put his fourth field goal through the pipes and force the Rams to score a touchdown to win?

"I felt confident being that far in with them having no time outs," Zorn said. "If they could drive 99 yards or at least 75 to kick a field goal, that would have been a wrong choice, but they didn't."

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Santana Moss (AP Photo)

Maybe the odds favored the Redskins. They could have made a first down and just run out the clock. They could have scored a touchdown -- don't ask how, we don't explain miracles here -- and truly put the game out of reach. Instead, Zorn worried about giving the ball back to the Rams if the Redskins kicked the field goal.

"We'd have to kick off to them and they're going to get the ball," he said. "In this case, they're throwing out of their end zone four times."

The expressed fear of kicking a field goal and then having to kick off sounded like a stretch because the Rams started at their own 15, 16, 24 and 25 after the Redskins' four kickoffs. The Rams, it should be noted (and now is) average 16.2 yards per kickoff return.

But that's what the man said.

The Rams did in fact throw out of their end zone four times. Not a single pass was completed. Safety Chris Horton nearly intercepted the last one near midfield. He could not hold on, however.

Which gave the ball back to the Redskins at the St. Louis 4. What beautiful irony. The team so painfully in need of a touchdown and so unable to score one no matter how close it gets to the promised land was in the red zone once again with only one true need – to see the game end.

Campbell took a knee. Took a knee. And took a knee. Time expired.

No gambling now. No gadgets, no halfback options or end-arounds or fumblerooskies. A knee.

At least this one time, backward progress in the red zone represented a little bit of forward progress. The Redskins evened their record at 1-1, albeit against a team that has now lost 12 in a row, and gets to play the Detroit Lions, who have lost 19 in a row.

Ending the scoring drought becomes job one for Zorn this week. The Redskins' last victory last season featured only one offensive touchdown. They got two in the one before that, but now we're reaching back to a 20-17 victory against the Seahawks on Nov. 23.

"I have to look at this thing very hard because it is my responsibility," Zorn said. "I can wave all kinds of magic wands but I have to come up with the right play and put our guys in the right position."

Those are good points. Perhaps he can get his team to score a few.


Larry Weisman covered professional football for USA TODAY for 25 years and now joins the Redskins Broadcast Network and Redskins.com to bring his unique viewpoint and experience to Redskins fans. Go to Redskins.com for the Redskins Blitz column and NFL Blitz on Friday. Larry also appears on The Jim Zorn Show on WRC-TV on Saturday night, on Redskins Nation, airing twice nightly on Comcast SportsNet, and on ESPN 980 AM radio, all in the Washington, D.C. area. Read his blog at redskinsrule.com and follow him on Twitter.com/LarryWeisman.

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