Last night I had the pleasure of talking with the guys on Ballhogs Radio and the topic turned to something that also was brought up in the press box while the game was unfolding on Sunday. The question is whether or not Kyle Shanahan got too pass happy during the second half of the win over the Cardinals.
So that this can be discussed in terms of the facts and not impressions at the time, I broke down the runs and passes during key periods of the game. For context, the league as a whole is averaging 55 percent pass plays so far this year and averaged 53 percent passes during the 2010 season. The numbers exclude four kneel-downs by Rex Grossman, one in the first half and three while in victory formation in the second.
For the game, the Redskins rushed 31 times (42%) and passed 43 (58%). The ratio was nearly even in the first half as Shanahan called 19 runs and 21 passes. The running game was working well, with the Redskins picking up 115 yards on those 19 carries (6.1-yard average). Rex Grossman averaged seven yards per pass attempt and he did have those two interceptions.
The second half was more pass happy as they had 12 rushing attempts and 22 passes, a 32% to 68% ratio. They picked up 63 yards rushing in the second half, averaging 5.3 yards per carry. Grossman passed for 144 yards, 6.5 per attempt.
The Redskins led 10-7 at halftime, and the missed opportunities have been well chronicled. They had one drive in the third quarter with that lead and they passed twice (one was the 40-yard rollout-throwback to Fred Davis) and ran twice in a four-and-out series. After they punted, Arizona drove in for a Beanie Wells touchdown to take a 14-10 lead. After the kickoff, the Redskins did go pass happy. The drive lasted five plays with four passes (one of which ended up drawing a 23-yard pass interference flag) and one run and ended in a punt.
They ended the third quarter with six passes and three runs.
Washington regained possession at the Arizona 44 at the start of the fourth quarter. They had three scoring drives during that quarter.
During a drive to a field goal to cut the Cardinals lead to 14-13 they passed three times and ran three times.
After Kevin Kolb hit Larry Fitzgerald for 73 yards and a touchdown to give Arizona a 21-13 lead, the Redskins took possession on their own 27 with 10:52 left to play. They ran four times and passed eight times during their 73-yard drive that culminated in Grossman’s 18-yard touchdown pass to Santana Moss on fourth down.
After an Arizona three and out, the Redskins got the ball at their own 36 with 4:20 left. During the drive to what proved to be the game-winning field goal they called two runs and five passes.
In the fourth quarter they ran nine times and passed 16.
You can draw your own conclusions as to whether or not Shanahan went with the pass too much. The second-half ratio jumps out at those who want to make the case that they were too pass happy. Keep in mind that they were behind for about 15 of the final 30 minutes, although never by more than one score.
It will be interesting to see how this aspect unfolds as the season goes on. There is more reason now to have confidence in the rushing game than there was after they averaged 2.9 yards a carry against the Giants.