ASHBURN, Va. (AP) — Halftime of an NFL game is a chance for players to rest up, for coaches to coach up, and for the occasional adjustment that can pay dividends down the stretch.
For the Washington Redskins (2-4), it’s when they do some of their worst work.
Heading into Sunday’s game against Jameis Winston and the visiting Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-3), Washington has a serious problem it needs to fix: How to avoid giving games away in the third quarter. So far this season, coach Jay Gruden’s club has been outscored 46-3 in that period.
In five of their six games so far, the Redskins have been ahead at halftime, but they’ve lost three of those.
“Obviously, whatever we’re doing,” Gruden said, “has not been good enough.”
“The big thing is awareness. Letting them know that this is what the last six games have been like in the third quarter. … ‘Here are the stats and we have to do something about it,'” Gruden said. “I don’t think we stop practice in the middle of practice, go to the locker room and come back out and pretend it’s halftime. But the issue’s there.”
Last week, for example, Washington took a 13-10 lead over the New York Jets into halftime. One 17-0 quarter later, the Jets led 27-13 and were on their way to a 34-20 victory.
The next day, Gruden declared that he was going to hold a staff meeting to discuss various aspects of that very topic: What have the Redskins been doing wrong in third quarters? How can they prepare better? What can be changed?
“After the game, that’s the first thing we said: ‘We’ve got to find a way to start coming out in second halves and do the same things we were doing in the first half,'” linebacker Perry Riley Jr. said. “I think this second half, this week, you’ll see a different team.”
Gruden made the case that the most striking thing about it is that his players seem to lose their “edge” during the break after the second quarter. If the coaching staff can manage to rectify that, he insisted, results should change.
What Gruden did not say is that he and his assistants need to do a better job of making game-plan adjustments.
“You can’t say it’s Xs and Os, because we win the first half. It’s definitely more mental,” Riley said. “Maybe we come out too relaxed because we have the lead.”
“When we have teams down, we need to step on their throats,” he added, stomping his left foot on the locker-room floor for emphasis, “and not let them back in the game.”
The party line, anyway, is that making a big deal about it this week should have the desired effect.
“It’s been addressed. It’s been talked about,” defensive coordinator Joe Barry said, employing a two-sentence combination he repeated at least two other times Thursday. “I don’t think it’s one of those things that you can just go, ‘Oh, whatever,’ and dig a hole and put your head in the sand.”
Notes: Missing practice Thursday because of injuries: CBs Chris Culliver (knee) and DeAngelo Hall (toe), C Kory Lichtensteiger (thumb), RB Chris Thompson (bruised back). … LT Trent Williams and TE Jordan Reed were limited in practice as they progress through the league’s concussion protocol. Gruden said he was hoping they could be cleared Thursday night or Friday morning. “Would be great for us to know,” Gruden said.