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Break It Down: Redskins' offensive meltdown

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The switch to John Beck as starter didn't pay off for Mike Shanahan and the Redskins against the Bills. (AP)

In Break It Down, I will go back and analyze the Xs and Os of a notable play or performance from Sunday’s games.

Sunday, for the first time in a 267-game head coaching career, Mike Shanahan saw his team get shut out. The time when the Redskins were 3-1 and dreaming of the playoffs feels like it happened in some alternate dimension. The Washington team on display in Week 8's 23-0 loss to Buffalo looked like it might not score again this season, let alone win another game.

John Beck was sacked nine times, Ryan Torain led the team with a whopping 14 yards rushing and the Redskins totaled 10 first downs -- just three in the first half.

From top to bottom, the Redskins had no answers against a Buffalo defense that came into Sunday allowing 24.5 points and more than 400 yards per game.

Washington put up 178 yards. How did it all go so wrong?

We may as well start at the beginning. It took the Redskins' three possessions to pick up a first down, even though they actually put themselves in a decent situation right out of the gate.

Their first play from scrimmage -- a short John Beck to Jabar Gaffney pass -- netted five yards, then an end-around to Donte' Stallworth picked up two. So, Washington faced a 3rd-and-3 at its own 27, and Beck dropped to pass.


So far, so good, right?

The Redskins started Sean Locklear and Will Montgomery at left tackle and left guard, respectively, with usual starters Trent Williams and Kory Lichtensteiger out due to injury. Buffalo exploited that weakened spot on Washington's line ... starting ... right ... here:


Remember that nice wall Beck appeared to have set up for the 3rd-and-3 pass? Gone. Arthur Moats (No. 52) stunts to the inside, both Locklear and Montgomery stay on Dwan Edwards, and Moats finds himself with a clean shot on the QB.

Making matters worse is that Chris Kelsay (No. 90 in blue) also has beaten Jamaal Brown wide, so Beck is hemmed in. He fired a pass into coverage, which wound up incomplete.

Washington's next possession started with an attempt to utilize Shanahan's bread and butter -- the run game. The first-down play was a handoff to Torain on a play designed to go behind that rebuilt left side of the line.

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Except ...


Lockler and Montgomery got blown up. There's a small crease there for Torain to try to squeeze through, but your offensive linemen are not supposed to be pushed three or four yards back by the time the running back gets the ball.

Torain fails, too, in getting to that seam -- Shanahan's offensive ground game is designed around a "one-cut" principle, meaning that a running back should be able to make a single move in the backfield and hit the hole. Only on a play like this, Torain could have cut up, then bounced left and found some yards. Instead, he gained two on a dive inside.

The Redskins came back to the run on the next play, again sending Torain left.


This is just a debacle of the highest order.

Chris Cook planted himself on the ground after getting blown past by Marcell Dareus, who wound up with 2.5 sacks Sunday. In the box are Chris Chester, Will Montgomery and Brown -- that's three(!!) Redskins linemen blocking Alex Carrington. Meanwhile, Torain tried to turn the corner with two blockers in front of him and four Bills defenders.

There is no way this is going to gain anything substantial. Torain somehow wound up getting two, the Redskins came up short on a 3rd-and-6 pass and then punted.

But it wasn't all on the offensive line or Torain. As Redskins fans are well aware, Beck was a major part of the problem too, because even when the line gave him time, he consistently made poor decisions or threw bad passes.

On 2nd-and-8 on Washington's third drive, Beck dropped back to throw. The pocket held up well against Buffalo's rush, but Beck took off anyway.

At first glance, the decision didn't appear that ill-advised. As you'll see on the picture below, there are no Buffalo defenders in sight. Beck could have run for at least six or seven yards.


Instead, as he got to the line of scrimmage, he fumbled the ball -- untouched, with no defender in the area. He recovered but Washington ended up with no gain.

And on second glance, Beck bailing on the pocket cost him this as well:


That's Jabar Gaffney running uncovered behind the linebacker level of Buffalo's zone. Had Beck stayed planted in the pocket for another second or two, he could have delivered a huge gain to Gaffney. Beck did hit Leonard Hankerson for 23 yards on the next play, but he also overthrew Hankerson later in the drive -- on that play, the Washington wide receiver had two or three inside steps on deep coverage and could have scored with a well-thrown ball.

But Beck's shaky decision making and subpar play continued to be a theme all game.

In the second quarter, with Washington enjoying a 1st-and-10 at the Buffalo 17, Beck faked a handoff to Torain, then rolled to his left.


At this point, Beck has a few options: Try to fit a pass in to one of his receivers, scramble or throw the ball away -- he was outside the tackle box, so intentional grounding was off the table.

Instead, he held the ball, stepped up a couple steps and took a sack. Simply inexcusable.

Two plays later, Washington had a 3rd-and-16 on the 22. Buffalo showed an all-out blitz, then came with seven defenders. That left four Washington receivers against four Bills defensive backs, plus safety valve Roy Helu -- he's standing directly in front of Beck in the photo below.


The result of this play -- a sack by Jairus Byrd (No. 31) -- is on both Beck and Helu. The five-man offensive line picks up six rushers, leaving Byrd, Helu and Beck.

Two problems arise: 1. Helu does not pick up Byrd nor does he fire out as a passing option fast enough, leaving himself in no man's land; 2. Beck never looks Helu's way for a dump-off.

Beck compounds the indecision by holding the ball despite the blitz, instead of firing it out to one of his options in the flat. Byrd, untouched, clobbered Beck.

And one last example of indecision from the QB position:


On a 2nd-and-17 in the third quarter, Beck went back to pass again. The Bills brought four pass rushers, all of whom were picked up initially by the Redskins' line. Beck panicked, though, and instead of stepping into the pocket and firing a pass, tried to squeeze through on the right side and scramble. He ran right into the rush and took a 5-yard loss.

Good luck to Mike Shanahan and his coaching staff going forward off of this one. Where do you start? The line was awful, the Torain-Helu combo nonexistent and Beck skittish and indecisive.