At halftime on Sunday, Redskins coach Jay Gruden told the FOX sideline announcer, “I want to see guys flying around, smiling, having fun.” After the game, he said, “It looked like we were sleepwalking out of the huddle.”
After getting about 24 hours to ponder his team’s 49-27 loss to the Colts, Gruden wasn’t much happier about the shortage of pep in his team’s step.
“When we have a decent play or we run a play and receivers are down the field, they are not coming back to the huddle fast enough and our linemen aren’t getting back to the huddle,” he said during his Monday news conference. “We are not breaking the huddle with any sense of urgency – it’s just what I felt.”
This isn’t just a matter of looking good out there. There are practical consequences to dawdling back to the huddle. The team runs out of time to get a play off.
“And too many times I’m looking at the shot clock and we’re down to 10, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, so I just felt like our tempo was not very good,” said Gruden. “No sense of urgency I felt like on offense.”
It’s easy to see how Gruden wouldn’t like what he saw. The Redskins got a turnover on the first play from scrimmage when Ryan Kerrigan sacked Andrew Luck and forced a fumble. When you get a sudden change like that you want to grab the momentum and deliver a quick punch in the gut.
After the offense took the field they got the snap off 16 seconds after the ball was put into play. Alfred Morris carried for four yards down to the Colts 11 on the play, a good start.
But instead of keeping the defense reeling, the Redskins took 35 seconds to get off the next play. That’s a lot of time for the defense to get settled in, take a look at the Redskins’ personnel package, and dig in for the snap. There were two seconds left on the play clock at the snap. After an incomplete pass they took 36 seconds, again snapping the ball with two seconds left on the play clock. A pass to Jordan Reed was short of the first down line and the uninspiring possession ended with a field goal and a wasted opportunity to make a statement.
The Colts got off three plays in an average of 25 seconds before Ryan Clark picked off a pass and returned it to the Indy 45. After a first-down sack they took 41 seconds (one second left on play clock) and 36 seconds to get off plays. This possession ended in a punt.
“Not to say they weren’t doing their job,” said Gruden. “I just want to see us with a more of an upbeat tempo and more ‘go get ‘em’ type attitude, hunger attitude, run around, fly around to the football.”
Gruden got the worst of both worlds. The offense didn’t do the job moving the ball going three and out twice and they looked lax in doing so.
His displeasure wasn’t limited to one side of the ball.
“Defensively, same thing,” said Gruden. “A lot of times we are looking around trying to get everybody lined up instead of getting to our guys and set and ready to kick some tail. Just looks like we’re tentative in what we are doing and letting the Colts dictate the pace and the flow as opposed to us dictating it.”
Gruden said that the team would address tempo during practice and work on it. But this is not a new issue. I noted during training camp that the team sort of wandered up to the line after breaking the huddle. To be fair, that is not much of a change from the way things were under Mike Shanahan. Or Jim Zorn.
In fact, the Redskins haven’t head a reputation for being a hustling, scrappy team that got the most out of its talent since the first Joe Gibbs era. It’s something that is burned into the culture. I don’t know if Gruden can fix it but it seems he recognizes it and that’s the first step.