WASHINGTON — The Redskins fell in love with the fade route during Sunday’s 27-23 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
At one point, when the Redskins still had a 23-20 lead and a chance to take a commanding lead from the Cowboys’ 6-yard line in the fourth quarter, Kirk Cousins threw consecutive incomplete passes — both fade routes — attempting to hit receiver Josh Doctson and then tight end Jordan Reed in the back right, and front right corners of the end zone. Cousins threw an interception on the next play.
Questioning stalled goal line drives is nothing new to the NFL, but the precise repetitiveness of that particular Redskins red zone attempt was curious considering it was devoid of rushing attempts.
Coach Jay Gruden defended the red zone play-calling, which included four fade routes on the day, citing “very good match-ups” and the difficulty in gaining yards on the ground with nine or 10 defenders stacked in the box as his reasoning.
“We tried it three times,” Gruden said, according to Dan Steinberg. “And we’ll try it again three times next week if we have to.”
The Redskins, in fact, practice fade routes quite regularly, so it’s no surprise they at least made an appearance on game day, but four times?
“We have a couple of guys who are well-equipped to go up and catch it and make a good play for us,” he said. “But, in hindsight, there were some opportunities there where, a run play is there and I just take the fade if I like it. We certainly can run the ball there, and I think in hindsight that’s what we would have wanted to do obviously when you know that it would fall incomplete.”
When asked to clarify that comment, Cousins explained in that situation, he can elect to throw the fade or run the ball — both options are on the table — and he, rather than Gruden or offensive coordinator Sean McVay, was solely responsible for making those decisions.
“So like you can check into the run, you mean, there?” Paulsen asked.
“Well, the run’s called,” Cousins said. “The run’s called. The fade’s called. You got both if you want it. Whatever one you want. And so it really isn’t Sean’s call, it isn’t Jay’s call; it’s really my call.
“Obviously they can tell me, you know, ‘Hey, emphasize the run’ or ’emphasize the throw.’ There have been times where I’ve handed it off and we come to the sideline and said, ‘Hey. Let’s throw the fade there. I mean you’re running against a loaded box and the fade should be the throw. Even if you don’t think you’ve got a great chance, that’s a better chance than handing the ball off.'”
“There’s a little bit of hindsight there that says which one was better, depending on the specific situation, but you don’t know it when you’re making that decision,” he said.
“There’s no doubt that I think we come away, the offensive line comes away saying, ‘Hey, we definitely want to run it down there and can run it down there.’ That’s just one example of plays where you feel like, ah, we’d probably do it differently if I could going back.”