During Joe Gibbs' first tenure as Redskins head coach, the third quarter was his best quarter. His teams came out from the locker room and made adjustments, both offensively and defensively.
Only twice in his 12 seasons (1982, 1985) did the Redskins lose the scoring battle in third quarters.
This season, the Redskins are struggling coming out of halftime. And if the Redskins are to turn their fortunes around, one of the things they'll have to fix is their third-quarter performances.
Through nine games, the 3-6 Redskins have been outscored 60-17 in the third quarter. In the last five games, the Redskins have been outscored 53-0 in the third quarter, including a 10-0 count in Sunday's 27-3 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field.
Washington trailed the Eagles 17-3 at halftime of the game, so the Redskins were facing an uphill battle to begin with. But the defense needed to come out and stymie the Eagles on their opening possession.
"That first third down of the third quarter is a crucial one because it sets the tone," assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams told his charges in the days leading up to the game.
Instead, the Eagles drove downfield to the Redskins' 25-yard line, then converted a 4th-and-4 play to get a first down to the 18-yard line. The defense eventually stuffed Philadelphia at the goal line, forcing the Eagles to settle for a 25-yard field goal.
Later in the third quarter, Mark Brunell's pass to Santana Moss was intercepted by Eagles' cornerback Sheldon Brown and returned 70 yards for a touchdown.
That play seemed to take the life out of the Redskins' comeback effort.
Heading into the Eagles game, the Redskins talked about playing stronger in the third quarter. Simply put, they did not get results.
"What we did with something like that was make everyone aware of it," head coach Joe Gibbs said. "Our team is very smart. We placed a big emphasis on penalties [in Week 9 against Dallas] and it seemed like we took that to heart and stepped up. We played much better in that area."
In the improbable 22-19 win versus Dallas last week, the Redskins were penalized just five times for 41 yards. Now, Gibbs and his staff are trying to do something about improving their third-quarter showings.
"Defensively, our job is to make sure we're sound in the third quarter," said Williams. "Defensively, we have to do a better job of three-and-out. It's a big emphasis.
"We talk about it every day and every week. I've never ended a halftime adjustment period in my coaching career without talking about that. You have to go out there and make plays."
Added defensive end Renaldo Wynn: "We have not been as good in the third quarter, and it has been mind-boggling. We have wanted to come out and play better in the third quarter, and we have wanted to take some pride in doing that.
"It seems like, lately, the defense has been on the field to start the second half, and we have to learn to set the tempo out there."