LANDOVER, Md. — The Washington Redskins lose playmakers. They find more. Just imagine if they’d all been healthy and on the field at the same time. The Redskins, at this point, can only dream of that scenario.
But there’s a reason Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden, a day before beating the New York Giants 20-10, said he wasn’t worried about his offense. No one was more aware of what his offense was missing. Nobody was more aware of what it still had.
So here came receiver Jamison Crowder, continuing his recent stretch of play that many expected many games ago. And here came Samaje Perine, running the way they hoped when they made him a fourth-round pick. And there was receiver Josh Doctson, setting up one score by drawing a pass interference – and then catching the game-winning touchdown to beat the New York Giants.
In some cases, it’s what the Redskins expected this season: the coaches considered Crowder their best receiver at times; and Doctson was their most talented. They’d waited a long time to see him make plays.
This was an offense missing 60 percent of its original starting offensive line. That led to rocky moments, as you would expect. It led to a game in which quarterback Kirk Cousins needed to be smart and accurate and deliver when the plays were available. More often than not he did.
But the Redskins also were without tight end Jordan Reed, out a fourth straight game with a hamstring injury, and running back Chris Thompson, out for the season with a broken leg. Reed was the focal point of the passing game entering the season. Thompson was the spunk and energy this season.
However, when they needed someone else, here came Crowder. While the rest of the team is breaking down, Crowder is getting healthy. Or, at least, healthier. A hamstring bothered him early this season. But, in his last four games, the Redskins’ slot receiver has caught 27 passes for 412 yards.
Cousins always says he goes where the coverage takes him. Lately, it’s been taking him to a wide-open Crowder. He’s been good at setting up defenders and the Redskins scheme created holes for him in the middle. The result: catch and runs to help Washington. He caught a 33-yard pass to set up his own 15-yard touchdown reception.
That play provided a glimpse of the improved Cousins. The coaches have long wanted him to extend plays in the red zone, particularly on third down. Even last year, there were times Cousins wouldn’t do this. Now? He’s using his legs more. And it was evident on this touchdown as he scrambled to his right. Oftentimes he’ll run in that situation. But a run would not have worked – and Crowder found an opening so Cousins found him.
The defense gets a nod during a game in which they held a woeful Giants’ offense to three points. They were more disciplined and it prevented big plays. New York managed six first downs and was two-of-14 on third downs. The defense is battered, too.
But this was also about the offense finding a way to survive the loss to too many key parts. Perine was one of the reasons why they could. He’s not going to hit a bunch of home runs, but he’s running well enough – and a patchwork line made enough good blocks. Credit coach Jay Gruden for not going away from the run. Again, in the past, the Redskins would have. It wasn’t working in the first half as Perine gained three yards on five carries.
However, with such a depleted group the Redskins wouldn’t survive just dropping back and throwing all the time. The result: Perine rushed 16 times for 93 yards in the second half.
The Redskins never doubted what their offense could do this season. Not even when it looked bleak on the outside. It helped facing the Giants. It also helped having playmakers who were still healthy.