The 2015 Washington Redskins are three teams: the first half team that keeps games close and often takes a lead, the third quarter team that shits the bed, and the fourth quarter team that has to clean up the mess (and often fails).
Let's start with the numbers Washington's offense has put up so far in each quarter. See if you can tell where things go wrong.
The touchdowns and turnovers are the sexy stats (don't you hate it when writers describe certain stats as "sexy"?), but what really jumps out to me are the first downs: nine passing first downs and three rushing first downs through six third quarters so far this season. That's remarkable when you compare it to each of the other three quarters, in which Washington has managed at least 20 first downs through the air and six on the ground.
Also worth mentioning is the Skins have run just 69 plays in the third quarter, compared to 95 in the first, 110 in the second and 123 in the fourth.
There are numerous reasons for this disparity, not the least of which is Washington has received the ball first in five of its six games (Week 2 against the St. Louis Rams, Washington won the toss and deferred), meaning its opponent gets the first drive in the third quarter. But a big factor is certainly the offense's inability to sustain a drive, and seemingly every offensive possession results in a three-and-out.
Now let's go back to the scoring and turnovers. Washington has four rushing touchdowns and six passing touchdowns in quarters 1, 2 and 4; it has yet to record a single touchdown in the third quarter. In addition, Kirk Cousins has thrown four interceptions in each of the other three quarters, and a fifth in overtime (you know the one); he has thrown three in the fifteen minutes after halftime alone.
And on the topic of Cousins' performance in those quarters: He has a passer rating of at least 80 in quarters 1, 2 and 4; that number plummets to an abysmal 54.3 in the third quarter. For reference, Cousins' first-half rating of 84.6 is nearly identical to Joe Flacco's career rating of 84.5. Cousins' third-quarter rating of 54.3 would put him well below any active quarterback (with 1,500 pass attempts as the qualifier), including a whopping 17.1 below Rex Grossman, and 179th all time. That's just below Cotton Davidson, who, in his last real season as a pro, threw two touchdowns and 11 interceptions (it did not pay off for him).
But football is not a game solely consisting of offense, and while we aren't going to get into special teams here, let's spend a moment looking at how the Redskins defense has held up in the third quarter.
You knew these numbers would be bad, and, well, they are. Nearly every offensive statistic enjoys a notable spike against the Redskins defense in the third quarter, including yards, plays, yards per play, first downs, yards per carry, completion percentage and quarterback rating.
Not only does the third quarter look bad, but the whole second half is pretty terrible. Much of that comes from the third quarter, but once the Redskins are on a (bad) roll, they tend to stay on it. (For example, they give up a touchdown basically once every 10 throws in the fourth quarter.)
The disparity in pass defense is especially significant: one touchdown and eight sacks in the first half versus eight touchdowns and four sacks in the second half. The passer rating for opposing QBs in the second half is an outrageous 111.1, which is nearly five points higher than Aaron Rodgers' career rating.
The Redskins' second-half defense has literally made Ryan Tannehill, Nick Foles, Eli Manning, Sam Bradford, Matt Ryan and Ryan Fitzpatrick look like Aaron Rodgers.
So what is there to do about this disastrous state of affairs? Well, short of getting Jay Gruden some motivational speaking help, I don't know. The Redskins need to stop abandoning the run, as has been mentioned about a thousand times, they need to get creative with the play calling, as has also been hammered home repeatedly, and they need to keep the offense on the field.
Of course, they need to do that in the first half, as well. If the Redskins can take a 21-point lead into halftime instead of a 3-point lead, maybe they can actually hold onto it.