When you're often pinned back deep in your own territory against one of the best defenses in football, it's understandably difficult to get much going offensively.
The Washington Redskins learned that the hard way Monday night against the Seattle Seahawks. On average, the Redskins began their 12 drives from their own 17-yard line, including drives that started from their own 10, 1, 8 and 9.
"We were backed up, backed up, backed up," Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said. "And then we'd punt and we could never change the field position."
The defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks – who moved to 3-1 with the victory – showed why they remain one of the more complete teams in the entire league Monday.
Their offense, led by Russell Wilson, broke open several huge plays early – many via the via the read-option – to build a 17-0 lead; their defense was, as usual, stingy and quick; and their special teams made several critical plays from start to finish, even as the Redskins continued to claw their way back into the game at several junctures.
But it was the field position game that continued to be a sticking point at several critical points of the contest for the Redskins (1-4), whose best field position of the night was from their own 35. That drive happened to be the team's final drive in the fourth quarter – which ended after one play 21 seconds later on the last play of the game.
"When you're backed up like that against a great defense, the odds are stacked against you," Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins said. "When you got bad field position, it is a challenge to go 89 yards against arguably the best defense in the NFL."
Washington's first 11 drives began from an average of their own 15-yard line, as Seattle punter Jon Ryan – who also added a five-yard run to convert a critical first down on a fake field goal play in the fourth quarter – showed off his coffin-corner skills.
Ryan said "when you have the confidence in the gunners and the guys in front of you, it's nice to not have to worry about that."
"You can't say enough about those 10 guys in front of me," he said. "The gunners were down there so quick it gave me the confidence to put the ball down there inside the 10 and not worry about a touchback."
Seattle's offense, meanwhile, often found itself with prime field position against the Washington defense Monday night. On average, the Seahawks began their 12 drives from their own 35, including drives that began from their 43, 47, 44, 40, 47 and the 50.
Some of that was by design, however, as Gruden said the Redskins decided to play keep-away from talented Seattle returner Percy Harvin, and also had an unsuccessful onside kick attempt.
"We lost field position all night on the kickoffs, and we kind of knew that coming in," Gruden said. "We don't want to kick line drives to (Harvin) – don't want him returning it – so we thought that if we could stop them at the 28- or the 30-yard line with the pooch kicks, it's better than risking kicking it to him deep with room to run. That's the decision we had going in."
The Redskins hope to shore up the field position game Sunday, when they travel to Glendale, Ariz., to take on the Arizona Cardinals.