With the entire football world watching, a pair of young Redskins defensive backs had their coming out parties Monday evening.
As the Washington Redskins got set to the face the Dallas Cowboys on Monday Night Football, David Amerson and Bashaud Breeland prepared to face one of the NFL's top pass threats in Tony Romo and his fleet of receivers, including Dez Bryant.
Despite the naysayers, the rookie Breeland and second-year Amerson stood tall, as they made several key plays down the stretch in Washington's 20-17 overtime win in Arlington, Texas.
Holding the Cowboys to just 224 yards and two touchdowns, defensive coordinator Jim Haslett's young defensive backs decided to host their coming out parties in Dallas.
"I would say that, but I had a good week of preparation that really helped me out," said Breeland, who said he watched plenty of tape of injured teammate DeAngelo Hall playing against Bryant in the week leading up to the game. "Once I got out there, things just came easy to me."
In the second quarter, especially, Breeland began to make his presence known.
As Dallas running back DeMarco Murray raced down the sideline for a 36-yard gain and approached the end zone, the Clemson-product joined the scrum while the running back pushed for extra yardage. Stripping the football out, safety Brandon Meriweather recovered the loose ball on Washington's own 10-yard line to avert potential disaster.
Later on the in the quarter, Bryant would beat the Redskins defense on a five-yard touchdown pass that saw him get past Amerson and Ryan Clark to give the Dallas their first lead of the game.
While it put Washington behind, Amerson didn't let it get him down.
"When it came to the touchdown, I missed on the outside leg, but it happens," Amerson, who finished with four tackles, said. "My confidence never went up or down. It was up the whole game; it was just going out there and playing."
Following the halftime break, Washington was able to contain Dallas' aerial attack. Holding Bryant without a reception and limiting Terrence Williams to 38 yards on four receptions, it was the play of the secondary that was key to Washington's overtime win.
With just more than four minutes remaining in the third quarter and Brandon Weeden temporarily replacing an injured Romo at quarterback, Breeland made perhaps the two biggest plays of the game.
On back-to-back plays in a goal-to-go situation, he recorded two of his four pass deflections to deny Bryant of his second touchdown and hold Dallas to a field goal.
"I was just showing him that I'm here, too," Breeland said. "I'm a player in the NFL just like he is. He's a good receiver. I know that, but I had to buckle down and do what I had to do to stop him."
To seal Dallas' fate on fourth-down in overtime, Breeland had one more play to make against Bryant, stepping between him and Romo's pass to break it up and end the game.
"On the final play, he went on like a slant route and I jumped it," he said. "So he tried to push it back outside and I just undercut it. I tried to pick it, but it kind of jammed my finger on trying."
After the game, head coach Jay Gruden was impressed with Breeland's clutch play in crucial moments of the game.
"He's a rookie playing against a big-time wide receiver tonight and he stepped up," he said, "and that's good to see because he's going be here for a long time."
Following the injury to Hall, many people saw the youth among the Redskins' secondary as a defensive weakness. While the duo of Amerson and Breeland is certainly aware of their inexperience, they knew that it was only a matter of time before they burst on to the scene in a big way.
"It felt real good," Amerson said. "Everybody know young we are, everybody knew we have growing pains and things like that, but it just comes to a point in time where you just got to pull all that to the side and go out there and play football.
"That's what we did tonight."