As the Redskins were in the process of losing two of three coming into Sunday’s game in Chicago, one issue on offense stood out. They had all of a sudden lost their touch on third down.
In the first nine games of the season they converted 56 of 125 third downs, a success rate of 44.8 percent. But in the three games that followed they converted 12 of 40 chances, a rate of 30 percent. That makes it tough to sustain drives and for a team with only occasional big-play pop that is a problem.
But yesterday they got it back in gear on third down. The Redskins were successful on seven of 12 third down attempts, a solid 58.3 percent rate.
The conversions helped them get off to a good start. They were two for two in their game-opening 15-play touchdown drive, with Kirk Cousins passing to Rashad Ross for 17 yards on third and 12 and Alfred Morris finding five yards up the middle on third and three.
The two most important conversions came in the second half. After the Bears had cut the Redskins’ 14-0 lead down to 14-7, Washington drove to a third and goal at the five. Cousins stood patiently in the pocket while Reed worked himself open over the middle. The quarterback fired the pass and Reed made the catch to put the Redskins up 21-7. The touchdown gave them some margin for error and they would need it.
Then with just over four minutes to play the Redskins led 24-21 and were trying to run out the clock. Facing third and six, Cousins scrambled to his right and threw to Reed across the field. Reed batted the ball but couldn’t make the catch. But Matt Jones saved the day with a heads-up play as he caught the ball after bobbling it. The play allowed the Redskins to burn off two more minutes of clock before punting to the Bears.
For the day Cousins was five of six on third down with four of the completions going for first downs. He picked up another conversion on a two-yard sneak. Cousins did take two sacks on third down.
In addition to his deflected reception, Jones converted two other third downs, those coming on the ground. The first one came early in the third quarter when went of left guard and fought for two yards to convert a third and two. That kept alive the drive that ended with Cousins’ touchdown to Reed.
The Redskins may not have needed Jones’ last conversion, a tough eight-yard run on third and seven with 47 seconds left to play. They may have been able to run out the clock without a fourth-down snap even if he had not made it as the Bears had burned all of their timeouts. But it was a good way to cap the win.
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