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Need to Know: Redskins are lost away from home

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Need to Know: Redskins are lost away from home

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, October 9, two days before the Washington Redskins play the Atlanta Falcons.

Lost away from home

Among the issues the Redskins must solve before they can be considered a competitive NFL team is their inability to win on the road.

Under Jay Gruden, the Redskins are doing a better job of sending the FedEx Field fans home happy. They are 5-6 at home since the start of the 2014 season. That is a .454 winning percentage, certainly not where they want to be. But it is an improvement on the 12-20 home record (.375) they posted in four years under Mike Shanahan.

But Gruden has plenty of work cut out for him when it comes to games on to road. The Redskins are 1-8 away from FedEx Field under him, a dismal .111 winning percentage. With Shanahan in charge they were 12-20 on the road, the same .375 winning percentage they had at home.

Over the years in the NFL, home teams (going back to 1966), home teams have won 57.3 percent of the time, meaning that to be average on the road you need a winning percentage of .427. The Redskins aren’t there.

“I don’t what the reason is, to be honest with you,” said Gruden. “We’ve just been outplayed on the road for whatever reason. I guess the only game we’ve won was Dallas on Monday night. I don’t really have a reason for it. I don’t have an answer. We just have to come out of the tunnel and start fast and try to get some momentum on our side and take the crowd out of it. A lot of times, we go on the road, like the Giants game for instance, we weren’t able to maintain the momentum and quiet the crowd. We’ve got to try to figure out ways to do that. That’s forcing turnovers. That’s obviously protecting the football and making some plays on special teams.”

The thing is, this is not a team that forces many turnovers, protects the ball particularly, and makes plays on special teams, the kinds of things that take a crowd out of a game.

But another thing that can blunt the home team’s momentum and lull a crowd to sleep are long, time-consuming drives by the visiting team’s offense. The Redskins are pretty good at these. They have 13 drives of 10 plays or more, the most in the NFL. Those drives have consumed an average of just under six minutes of clock time and 11 of them have finished in scores (6 touchdowns, 5 field goals).

If they can get a few of these going, and avoid the mistakes that had them back on their heels from the start against the Giants, they might have a shot in the dome in Atlanta on Sunday. But since they have not demonstrated the ability to get it done on the road, the best course is to remain skeptical until they do.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Practice 11:15; Jay Gruden and Sean McVay news conferences and player availability after practice, approx. 12:30

Days until: Redskins @ Falcons 2; Redskins @ Jets 9; Bucs @ Redskins 16

In case you missed it

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Kirk Cousins breaks down the terribleness of FedEx Field grass

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Kirk Cousins breaks down the terribleness of FedEx Field grass

For years, the Redskins struggle with their home field as the fall turns to winter. It's been happening so long it's become an expected passing of the seasons, like the transition from Halloween jack-o-lanterns to Christmas lights dotting people's front yards. 

Well, on Thanksgiving night, the turf at FedEx Field again showed how bad it can be. On a second half interception returned for a New York Giants touchdown, replay showed that Kirk Cousins' foot got stuck on the dirt, and it played a role in his sailing a ball to the sideline. The bad turf was not the only reason for the interception, but it was definitely a reason. 

Beyond the pick, the field was just ugly. Twitter blew up making fun of the Redskins home grass, and the national broadcast showed just how unsightly the long brown patch between the hash marks looked. 

On Friday, the normally diplomatic Cousins opened up about the grass.

"It probably doesn't look like a professional NFL field should," the quarterback said on 106.7 the Fan (full audio here). "If you think the field is rough now on Thanksgiving, we've got two more home games in mid-to-late December. That's probably going to be a bigger challenge."

Asked about the field's impact on the interception on Thursday night, Cousins ignored it. But plenty of other players have suggested the field is a known problem in the second half, and something they just must deal with. 

"I don't know why it is that way or what causes it," Cousins said. "I've kind of learned to accept it and understand it's part of the deal. Playing here on the field has never been that great in the second half of the season for whatever the reason."

[h/t @BenStandig for the Cousins quotes]

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When Samaje Perine got going, so did the Redskins' offense

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Bob Youngentob for NBC Sports Washington

When Samaje Perine got going, so did the Redskins' offense

At halftime of the Redskins’ Thanksgiving night game against the Giants, Samaje Perine had three yards rushing and his team had three points. Washington had racked up all of 113 yards.

Coincidence? Not entirely. Although the Redskins are primarily a passing team they need to run the ball to pass effectively.

“We had to get the running game going,” said Jay Gruden after the game.

In the second half, Perine and the offense did get it going. Perine ran for 97 yards and Redskins put up 210 yards and 17 points. It’s safe to say that it wasn’t a coincidence.

The Redskins didn’t make any halftime adjustments to get the ground game in gear.

“We just had to stay the course,” said Perine. “We knew they were going to come out fired up, they just came off a big win. We just had to stay the course and then things started going our way.”

MORE REDSKINS: MUST-SEE PHOTOS OF THE WIN

Perine was more steady than spectacular. His longest run was 16 yards. He came out of the locker room and ran for six and 10 yards on his first two carries. Later in the third quarter the Redskins were backed up at their own 10. Perine ran four straight plays for 39 yards and the Redskins were near midfield.

Although they didn’t score on that drive they did change field position. That was part of the Redskins’ strategy playing with an injury-depleted offense.

“If you had to punt in a game like this and play field position, it’s not the end of the world because our defense was playing so good,” said Gruden.

Not only did the running game flip the field, it flipped the time of possession. In the first half, the Giants had the ball for 17:40 compared to 12:20 for the Redskins.

“We had to get on the field and control some of the clock,” said tackle Morgan Moses. “We had to give our defense a rest. Samaje put his foot in the ground and got extra yards when needed and we were able to move the chains.”

Moses wasn’t the only one enjoying seeing Perine pile up some yards.

“As a defensive player, you want to see that,” said safety D.J. Swearinger. “We say, keep running it. Keep running him. Let him keep getting those carries, put a dent in the defense. It was a good sight to see.”

RELATED: FIVE KEY MOMENTS IN RESKINS VS GIANTS

Swearinger got to watch a lot of Perine. The Redskins piled up 22:17 in possession in the second half, while Swearinger and his defensive mates had to defend for just 7:43.

Last night was the second time in four days that Perine has rushed for 100 yards or more; he had 117 in New Orleans on Sunday. No Redskin has rushed for 100 yards in consecutive games since Alfred Morris did it in November of 2013.

He will have a chance to extend that streak to three on Thursday against the Cowboys, who are ranked 17th in rushing defense. That would put him in some elite company in Redskins history, including Larry Brown (twice) and Stephen Davis.  A steak of three straight 100-yard games was last done by Morris in 2012.

It may be a little early to look forward, but the Redskins record is five straight 100-yard games, held by Clinton Portis (twice) and Ladell Betts.  

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.