With New York Giants Looming, Rex Grossman Must Get A Grip On Turnovers
This story appeared on page B1 of Sunday’s Free Lance-Star
ASHBURN — When Rex Grossman’s fourth-quarter pass bounced off Santana Moss’ hands a week ago at New England, it signaled two things: another Washington Redskins loss and more of the same for Grossman.
The quarterback is responsible for 20 turnovers this season, including 16 interceptions – the third-highest total in the NFL. He had at least one turnover in every game he has played in for the Redskins, and the last time he attempted a pass and didn’t turn the ball over was on Nov. 16, 2008, when he went four-for-seven for 26 yards for Chicago as a reserve in a loss to Green Bay.
“It comes down to a play here or a play there, and I think, without a lot of those turnovers, maybe we can now put ourselves in that situation where we dominate again,” Grossman said.
Shaking those mistakes hasn’t been easy for Grossman, who, in 51 career regular-season games and 44 starts, has turned the ball over 74 times.
It hasn’t been easy for the Redskins, either; they have committed a turnover on offense in every game since Week 14 last year against Tampa Bay – a span of 16 games.
As the interception against the Patriots demonstrated, one bad play can be devastating. Moss bobbled the catch inside the Patriots’ 10, leading to an interception by linebacker Jerod Mayo with 22 seconds left after Washington drove 71 yards in a quest to tie the score.
A week earlier, Grossman was sacked by linebacker Aaron Maybin not half a minute after the New York Jets took a four-point lead, which led to yet another touchdown and an eventual 34-19 loss by the Redskins.
And against Dallas on Nov. 20, Grossman threw yet another late interception – a deep ball midway through the fourth quarter that came on a drive following a Cowboys go-ahead touchdown.
“We’ve got to figure out a way to finish those games that are tight,” Grossman said. “We also need to figure out a way to eliminate mistakes so we get a little bit of a cushion. You look at our record [4-9], we could very easily – just [because of] two or three plays – be a lot better than it is.
“The reason those games are close is because of mistakes, and we need to eliminate those so we cannot [have] five minutes left to go in the fourth quarter and the game can go either way.”
Said Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan: “You take a look at three games – you look at the two Dallas games and you could talk about the Jets game and you could talk about the game last week – and all of a sudden, you [could be] 7–6 instead of where we’re at. That’s the difference between winning and losing.”
How does that change? How does a quarterback, a veteran in his ninth year, continue to commit turnovers?
The answer isn’t easy. If it were, Grossman might have solved it. But in recent games, he has compensated for the mistakes. The Redskins offense has undergone a renaissance of sorts, averaging 380.5 yards a game over the past month, including a season-high 463-yard outburst against New England.
“I think everyone’s enthused about how good this offense can be and the capability of all the players on the field,” said receiver David Anderson, a midyear acquisition who has been familiar with offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan’s system since their days together in Houston.
“Guys are filling in spots and they’re playing well, which is always encouraging, but obviously you’ve only got three games left in the season, so you’re going to have to play your hardest for three weeks. That’s the way it goes.”
Washington has benefited from an improve running game over the past three weeks, with Roy Helu becoming the first rookie running back in team history to pick up more than 100 yards in each of three consecutive games. That has also allowed the Redskins to find success with the play–action pass – a staple of the playbook all season that hasn’t worked without the ability to run the ball.
The Redskins were even able to find success in the passing game without tight end Fred Davis or left tackle Trent Williams, who served the first of their four-game suspensions for failing multiple drug tests. Without Davis, the team’s leading receiver, the Redskins abandoned their popular two-tight-end set, often going with three or more receivers or a fullback.
It worked. With Moss, Jabar Gaffney and Donte Stallworth all finishing with more than 80 receiving yards, it marked the first time since 1990 that three Redskins receivers surpassed that threshold.
“We wanted to put it on our shoulders with Fred being out,” Gaffney said. “It had to fall on one of us, and we all wanted to make that conscious effort to go out there and give it all we had and try to carry this team to victory.”
One of Washington’s more successful games on offense before the recent resurgence was in the season opener, when it picked up 332 total yards against the New York Giants, today’s opponent. Grossman completed 21 of 34 passes for 305 yards and two touchdowns, and it was also the last time he did not throw an interception in a game.
“Definitely need a repeat performance of that this week,” Grossman said.