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Zorn defends play-calling in Redskins' touchdown-free win

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The Canadian Press
9/22/2009 12:18:20 PM
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ASHBURN, Va. -- The Washington Redskins had first-and-goal at the seven.

First down: Clinton Portis for no gain.

Second down: Portis for two yards.

Third down: The Redskins line up with only one receiver, far to the left. At the five-yard line? Something must be up.

There was. Coach Jim Zorn called an option pass, with Portis tossing one to tight end Chris Cooley on the right side. The St. Louis Rams weren't fooled at all. With no receiver to watch in that part of the field, the defence had Cooley covered. The pass was incomplete. The fans booed loudly. They kept booing even as the field goal was kicked, giving the Redskins the lead.

Zorn spent Monday dissecting the repeated red zone meltdowns that made Sunday's 9-7 win a less-than-fulfilling victory. He cited plenty of things that went wrong -- dropped passes, failed blocks and more -- but he remains satisfied with his decisions as a play-caller.

"I am," Zorn said. "I mean, if I could see it now -- every play that was going to fail before it failed -- I'm with you, I wouldn't call it. But I felt very confident. Because we work on it. We have to execute it."

Eighteen games into the Zorn era, the Redskins have yet to score 30 points. They've yet to win a game by more than eight points, even though they've played some of the worst teams in the league. Through two games this season, the offence has scored one touchdown.

"All you can do is scratch your head," receiver Santana Moss said. "I mean, yeah, it's true, we have the talent. You're sitting there saying, 'Man, we should be doing this, we should be doing that.' But 'should be' ain't good enough, you know what I mean?"

The Redskins narrowly avoided an embarrassing loss against the Rams -- thanks to the defence -- but they'll be on the brink again if Zorn's offence can't get rolling next week against the Detroit Lions, losers of 19 in a row.

"If we had lost that game, it would have been totally different. It would have been ugly," defensive end Phillip Daniels said. "So let's be happy with the win and not let frustrations get in the way. Hopefully we can get better as a team and we can start putting points on the board."

The Redskins marched inside the 10-yard line four times against the Rams, resulting in three field goals and a failed fourth-and-one run. Certainly the feeling would have been different if Devin Thomas (first drive) or Mike Sellers (second drive) had caught certain touchdown passes at the goal line, but they were curious targets: Thomas is the No. 4 receiver and hasn't caught a pass all year, and Sellers is a fullback who rarely gets the ball thrown his way.

Then there was the Portis-to-Cooley halfback option. Zorn said the play was in the game plan, that it had merit because he had been running Portis wide earlier in the game, and that Portis has thrown touchdown passes before. The coach said the problem was that his players failed to sell the run.

"When we came off the line of scrimmage, we came off backing up," Zorn said. "The safety felt this was going to be a pass."

Asked about other plays throughout the game, Zorn cited failures of execution rather than problems with the plays he called. He did offer one caveat.

"I'm going to go back and study it more," he said. "And I'm going to be hard on myself as well, and we'll see what happens."

Meanwhile, his players had other concerns. Right guard Randy Thomas is out for the season with a torn right triceps, and there's no obvious top candidate to take his spot. There's also the proverbial echo from Sunday's boos from the home fans, who haven't seen their team win a division title in 10 years.

"I think it is an accumulation of frustration of how we have performed," middle linebacker London Fletcher said. "I don't think it's just yesterday's game. They've gotten frustrated with the performance."

Jim Zorn (Photo: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
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