Upon Further Review: Redskins Week 8

A review of four hot issues following the Washington Redskins' 45-21 loss to the Denver Broncos:

The passing game: Don’t pin it all on QB Robert Griffin III, though clearly he has a lot to do with the inconsistency of the passing game. The Redskins have yet to find a solid No. 2 receiver to put alongside Pierre Garcon. The emergence of tight end Jordan Reed helps quite a bit, but the Redskins continue to get little production from the other wideouts; even the once sure-handed Santana Moss has dropped crucial passes. And the pass protection breaks down when defenses know what’s coming. Denver hurt the Redskins with looks they either hadn’t seen or didn’t anticipate. At times the protection would slide one way only to have Denver send a stunt the other way. But Griffin will, and should, get plenty of blame. He’s a developing passer hurt more by his lack of offseason work than most originally realized. He’s still learning to read coverages at a faster speed. Griffin has made some strides, but not enough to carry the team as a passer.

Shanks for nothing: Punter Sav Rocca had a terrific game for much of the day. Rocca averaged 43.2 yards on his first six punts, with one fair catch and four downed inside the 20-yard line. But after a three-and-out by the offense, Rocca’s 15-yard punt enabled Denver to drive for a field goal and 10-point lead. Rocca was knocked in Philadelphia for these sort of lapses and he seemingly has had more of these shanks this season than in his previous two. They never occur at a good time.

Play calling: The Redskins were imbalanced on first-down plays, tilting heavily toward runs. Until the fourth quarter Washington had called 13 runs on first down compared to six passes. In the first four drives of the fourth quarter -- the fourth drive started with 7 minutes, 54 seconds remaining and Denver leading by 10 -- the Redskins called four passes on first down and one run. Problem is, their passing game kept putting them in bad spots: Through the first four drives of the fourth quarter, Griffin completed only 2 of 6 first-down throws for 15 yards. He was sacked twice, lost a fumble on one and scrambled for 4 yards. So 10 first-down passing plays netted the Redskins 19 yards. Their 14 runs gained 70 yards (27 coming on one play). Go ahead and blame play calling all you’d like, but that obscures the bigger issue, which goes back to the passing game.

Improved play: The special teams did a much better job in coverage, helped by Rocca’s punts (until the last one). If the Redskins want to win a couple games in a row, and it’s a possibility, then this unit needs to provide more games like Sunday. They managed a 34-yard punt return from Josh Morgan, after he fielded the ball inside the 10-yard line and somehow eluded two tackles. They still need more from their special-teams units.