The Redskins don’t look like a balanced offensive team. Their coach, Steve Spurrier, believes that passing the ball early sets up, well, more passes later. Their personnel — no standout quarterbacks, only one quality receiver, an excellent running back and two superb tackles — might suggest running the ball is their best option.
Somehow, those two extremes met in the middle of Sunday’s 20-17 win over St. Louis — a team renowned for its offensive balance and explosiveness.
The first-half numbers say Redskins running back Stephen Davis wasn’t very effective: he had 15 carries for 41 yards, a 2.7-yard average per carry.
What the numbers don’t say is how Davis — and his overall effectiveness as a running back — affected the passing game. He ran just effectively enough to keep the Rams’ defense off-balance. When Washington scored its first touchdown of the game in the second quarter, the 12-play drive featured Davis, with passes by Danny Wuerffel sprinkled in. Those plays — three completions, one each to Willie Jackson, Rock Cartwright and Rod Gardner got 52 of the drive’s 75 yards.
More importantly, it allowed Davis to resume the more mundane task of pounding away with the run.
“We knew we had to run,” said Spurrier. “And we got our passing yards here and there.”
“We had a great plan as an offense. We knew what formula to use against this defense and the way this defense played,” said Wuerffel. “We all executed it.”
Washington’s second touchdown drive — considerably shorter than the first — was nonetheless similar. Davis carried on all but two plays: the first, a Wuerffel-to-Gardner connection for 15 yards and the second an incomplete pass to Kenny Watson. But on that play, Rams’ defensive back Adam Archuleta was flagged for defensive holding, a five-yard penalty that gave Washington an automatic first down.
Davis went the final three yards for a score that gave the Redskins the lead for good.
On the third and final scoring drive, Davis carried three times for seven yards, including five on a fourth-and-one touchdown run. And again, the majority of the yards came though the air; Wuerffel completed two passes in three attempts for 33 yards. Wuerffel’s 7-yard pass to Chris Doering set up Davis’s touchdown.
“He’s a great back. Every time you give him the ball, good things are going to happen,” said offensive tackle Chris Samuels of Davis. “He opened up the passing game.”
Like all of football, one area — no matter how seemingly dissimilar — is usually linked to others. Running sets up passing and, as Spurrier would probably prefer, vice versa. Of course, solid defense and good special teams — James Tuthill’s two missed field goals excepted — didn’t hurt the offense either.
Separate units of a team may not look connected, and the Redskins may not look balanced offensively. On Sunday, they proved both statements are wrong assumptions.
Brian Hunsicker covers the Redskins for the Potomac News & Manassas Journal Messenger. Reach him at (703) 878-8053 or via e-mail at [email protected]