ASHBURN, Va. -- The Washington Redskins allowed a punt return for a touchdown -- and called their special teams showing an improvement. That speaks to how bad the Redskins special teams were the previous week against the Dallas Cowboys.
It also shows how far the special teams still have to go under first-year coordinator Keith Burns. In Sundays’ 45-41 win over the Chicago Bears, the special teams allowed an 81-yard punt return for a touchdown to Devin Hester. They managed just 53 return yards on three kick returns.
"[Sunday] was a step in the right direction,” Burns said. "Did we play a perfect game? No. But we’re still in search for just that.”
And one thing Burns won’t do: alter his approach.
"I came in with my plan and I’m still sticking to my plan,” he said. "We’ll see where it goes from there.”
His boss, coach Mike Shanahan, agreed with Burns’ assessment of Sunday.
"We improved drastically,” Shanahan said. "Even though it didn’t sound like it because of the punt return for a touchdown. ... You could see the sense of urgency. Not that we can’t get better.”
The Redskins rank 32nd in punt coverage; but 8th against kickoffs. They’re 27th returning punts and 31st in kickoffs.
Last week, Redskins special teamer Niles Paul said he did not think all the players had bought into Burns’ system. He replaced the popular Danny Smith, who had been with Washington since 2004. Burns played in the NFL for 13 seasons -- he said he played in five different systems. And he coached under three systems.
"I don’t think it had anything to do with buying in. Everything was new to them. It’s no different than if you put in a new offense or new defense,” Burns said. "It will be new to everybody. It has nothing to do with the scheme itself.
"I understand it from a players’ perspective. You’re used to being in one system for so many years, it’s part of it.”
Burns, who was not made available to the media last week despite requests, also discussed:
The poor return game. Washington averages 19.0 on 15 kick returns and 4.8 yards on 13 punt returns: "You have new guys trying to implement into the scheme the way we’ve been teaching it. At the same time there haven’t been a whole bunch of opportunities because everybody we’ve played has been kicking the ball in the back of the end zone and then it comes back to decision making. The guys are on track as far as knowing when to bring the ball out. We’ll get our opportunity. We don’t want to press and try and make something happen when there’s nothing there."
The penalty he received in Dallas, for hitting an official. Burns was in the white section on the sidelines when an official bumped into him, drawing an automatic flag. "I’m always aware of where I am. I was in the wrong. They were in the right. They threw the flag. That was that.”
The onside kick recovered by Chicago Sunday, but nullified by the Bears being offsides. "We had the ball, it just bounced out. It’s not something we were surprised by. That’s more of something you react to than plan and go out there and know that it’s coming. There’s nothing you can do about that.”
The 65-yard punt by Chicago that rolled and was downed at the 1-yard line. "That was a tough one. [Josh Morgan] couldn’t get to it. It was one of those deals where you have to have the opportunities. Josh made the decision to let the ball hit the ground and we lived with it from there.”
Leadership on the special teams. "We have leaders here. It’s the guys who are now stepping up and putting their best foot forward to start bringing the young guys along. That’s something we’ve talked about and we’ll just continue to do from here on out… Just don’t talk about it, we have to be about it. That’s what a leader would step up and do. So you have these young guys and now you bring them along, teach them how to play the game and understand what it means to play special teams in the NFL and how important it is to your team.”
Challenging the players. "It’s all about them understanding that what it takes to go out and play at a certain level. They have a standard, they have pride. No one’s ever content with the way things are going now.”