The Redskins running back broke out for 130 yards and a touchdown in the first half, saving his best performance for the final preseason game in Tampa Bay.
Update -- Mack Brown led the NFL in rushing this preseason wtih 227 rushing yards
On a rain-soaked night in Tampa, Fla., without 26 Redskins players making the team's trip and several roster spots still up for grabs, running back Mack Brown made his biggest impression of the preseason when he needed to the most.
Splitting carries with Robert Kelley throughout the entire game, Brown collected 149 yards rushing on just 19 carries in the Redskins' 20-13 victory over the Buccaneers on Wednesday night at Raymond James Stadium.
With running backs Matt Jones and Chris Thompson injured and resting for the last two preseason games, and with rookie Keith Marshall sent to Injured Reserve this past week, both Brown and Kelley had ample opportunities to run the ball for an extended series of plays and drives to find a rhythm.
"I just went out there and left everything on the field," Brown said. "I praise God for everything. I want to be here so I left everything on the field. Hopefully, it's good things from here on."
Because of the water-logged field and poor throwing conditions, head coach Jay Gruden and offensive coordinator Sean McVay decided on a heavy load of run plays with quarterback Nate Sudfeld under center. By the second drive, after a series of hefty rushes, Brown found an escape hole, the springboard to a memorable, rainy night.
The Florida product took a few steps to his left and then burst up through the second level up the middle of the field for 21 yards. After losing four yards on the next run play, he took a draw for 10 yards up the middle to show more of his versatility, finding success lined up in both the shotgun and I-formation. From his time the Gators, Brown had experience with slick conditions, too.
"I played at the University of Florida, so we had no indoor stadium at first, or practice facility," Brown said, "so I played in the rain all the time. I'm used to it."
It certainly looked like it. Two offensive drives later, Brown's quick bursts out of the backfield and steady feet earned him his first touchdown of the year. On a misdirection play that began with a few steps to his left, Brown made a hard cut to his right, running against the grain of the defense and used two nice blocks from T.J. Thorpe and Rashad Ross to his advantage. Then he used his speed.
Brown, who only rushed for 81 yards all of last preseason, made a couple jukes on cornerback Jude Adjei-Barimah, and eventually outran three Buccaneers defenders before diving into the end zone, capping a 60-yard run.
"Coach told me early I've got to finish," Brown said. "Those two runs before I should've came through and broke some long runs so that last one I had to finish it to score. It gives the team the momentum and we came out with a win. That's the main thing. I just had to finish that last touchdown – that's it."
The strong night continued for Brown, as he picked up consistent chunks of yards, occasionally rattling off a bigger gain – like a 22-yard scamper through a big hole led by offensive lineman Isaiah Williams in the second quarter – to complement Kelley's bruising style.
Kelley totaled 99 yards, and was just as impressive in the way he found extra yards after making initial contact at the line of scrimmage. Together, the duo accrued 248 total yards of offense. For good measure, Brown caught a short pass from Sudfeld over the middle for seven yards during the team's final offensive drive.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins said in an interview recently that for players on the fringe of the roster, training camp, and by extension, the preseason, feels like the Super Bowl. Every snap feels momentous, and each play is a chance to make the right impression in front of coaches.
Brown was confident in what he' managed to put on film over four games, and this last one certainly helped.
"The last two weeks or so in practice, I feel like a lot of weight has come off my shoulders," Brown said. "Guys got hurt so I had to step up. I've got to put my foot forward and make this team. I started running – that's it. That's the main thing. Mainly, it's the O-line and the game plan."
Regardless of Wednesday's weather and how Brown's fate ends up over the next couple of days, the impressions he made Thursday went beyond the Redskins' coaching staff, as Brown's father attended the game.
"I told my dad, 'Turn around, there's a hurricane coming,'" Brown said. "He said, 'I'm not missing this for the world.' I love my dad. I appreciate him coming."