Redskins.com's Brian Tinsman takes a closer look at Sunday's Week 14 game against the Baltimore Ravens at FedExField:
Regardless of the regional rivalry hoopla off the field and in the stands, both teams came into this game in must-win situations. For the Ravens, it was an opportunity to clinch the AFC North and try to win back home field advantage for the playoffs. For the Redskins, it was the fourth-of-seven "playoff games" to reach the postseason for the first time since 2007.
Under sloppy weather conditions at FedExField, both teams turned to the running game early and found tremendous success. Redskins running back Alfred Morris continues his sensational season, running at a clip of 9.2 yards per carry on the opening drive, setting up the game's first touchdown. Ravens running back Ray Rice answered right back, busting off a 46-yard run that set up a game-tying score. Tempers flared as the first quarter expired, setting up a physical matchup for the rest of the game.
Newly-anointed punt returner Richard Crawford took the game in his hands, following his blocks for a 64-yard return in overtime. Crawford had an outstanding day, returning three punts for 100 yards, but his overtime return took the pressure off the offense, giving them the ball in field goal range. After several runs up the middle, fellow special-teamer Kai Forbath was in an ideal position to kick the game-winning 34-yard field goal for the team's seventh victory.
PLAY OF THE GAME
The game appeared all but over when the Ravens marched down and scored with less than two minutes remaining in the game. The Redskins trailed by eight at that point and needed a miracle comeback. Robert Griffin III started the drive, but was felled by a colossal hit on his run up the middle. Backup Kirk Cousins entered the game on 3rd-and-6, and got a pass interference call for the first down. Griffin III came back in the game for several plays before leaving again, handing the keys back to Cousins, who did not disappoint. On 3rd-and-5 inside the 10-yard line, with 36 seconds remaining, Cousins found Garçon alone in the corner of the end zone for six points. The Redskins went for two, Cousins saw his opportunity and raced up the middle for the game-tying score.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Robert Griffin III continues to show tremendous grit, having his jersey dirtied on a cheap shot early in the game and battling back for 180 yards through the air in the first half. Griffin III took his lumps in the second half, including being knocked out of the game with less than two minutes remaining. He failed to put up the gaudy statistics on the day, but showed tremendous heart and did not put up the gaudy statistics everyone is accustomed to, but he did finish with 246 yards and a touchdown through the air, adding another 34 yards on the ground.
Backup quarterback Kirk Cousins was a much-criticized selection in the fourth round of April's NFL Draft. With other needs on the roster, pundits wondered how a team could possibly need or accommodate two rookie quarterbacks on the roster. But when Griffin III was knocked out of the game in Week 5, Cousins threw a 77-yard touchdown to Santana Moss and nearly completed a comeback against the Falcons before throwing two interceptions in the final two minutes.
Today was a new day, however, as Cousins threw two passes in relief, completing both, including the game-winning touchdown. Cousins also converted the two-point conversion himself, sending the game into overtime.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
--The Redskins committed to the running game early and had success with Alfred Morris, piling up 46 yards on the first drive. Morris had a critical fumble deep in Redskins' territory later in the first half, but set his team up on the first two scores of the game.
--Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan made a fearless move, deactivating a healthy Brandon Banks in favor of Niles Paul and Richard Crawford in the return game. Paul struggled in his limited opportunities on kickoffs, but Crawford shined tonight, nearly breaking the overtime punt for a touchdown. His return put the Redskins in comfortable field goal range for Kai Forbath to hit the game-winning kick.
--Veteran receiver Santana Moss returned from anonymity this week, catching his first target in two weeks for a clutch 31-yard reception. He finished with three receptions on four targets for 52 yards. Fellow University of Miami alum Leonard Hankerson also came through with a 29-yard reception, his longest since hauling in his 68-yard touchdown against the Rams in Week 2. He finished with four receptions on five targets for 67 yards.
--The Redskins' defense managed sacks from unlikely sources today, as linebacker Rob Jackson registered his second sack in four quarters, forcing and recovering a fumble that led to a Kai Forbath field goal. Later in the game, safety Jordan Pugh came untouched off the edge for his first career sack, which brought up fourth down and forced a Ravens' punt.
--Redskins offensive tackle Trent Williams has rarely practiced fully this season, nursing a number of leg injuries including a deep thigh bruise suffered vs. Dallas in Week 12. However, every game day, Williams has been available, continuing a streak of 13-consecutive games for this offensive line to play together. Williams has played his best football during the team's winning streak, opening holes in the running game, blocking for Griffin III in the passing game, and selflessly blocking downfield.
--One-time Ravens offensive lineman Lorenzo Alexander had a monster day on special teams and defense, bouncing back from a cheap hit on the opening kickoff to exact his revenge. In addition to coming up with a key third-down stop of Dennis Pitta in the fourth quarter on defense, Alexander speared Jones on the ensuing punt return. In overtime, Alexander stayed at home on 3rd-and-6, tackling Joe Flacco short of the first down marker after he was flushed from the pocket.
--Following the loss of tight end Fred Davis for the season, receiver Pierre Garçon has emerged as the team's top receiving threat. He once again led the Redskins in receptions today, using his speed and precision route running to get open in the Ravens' secondary. Even after Griffin III left the game, Garçon managed to get open in the end zone, catching Cousins' game-tying score for the team's first trip to overtime.
--Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan has gone through growing pains as the team's top pass rush specialist this season, but got consistent pressure on Flacco this afternoon, even without registering a sack. His red zone hit following the Morris fumble led to an incomplete pass on a sure touchdown to Jacoby Jones. His red zone hit in the middle of the third quarter forced a desperation pass to Ray Rice that got tipped and intercepted by London Fletcher.
--Redskins kicker Kai Forbath had another clutch day, overcoming swirling winds for 11 points and two field goals over 48 yards. That makes it 14 in a row to start Forbath's career, including his first-ever game-winning field goal in overtime. He makes up for a lack of exceptional leg strength with deadly accuracy from any distance under 50 yards.
--Fletcher continued to build his Pro Bowl resume today, logging nine tackles and his third interception of the year. Fletcher leads the team in tackles, and has built that number despite nursing series leg injuries for the last month.
WHAT WENT WRONG
--Redskins running back Alfred Morris has gotten shaky with ball security in recent weeks, losing a fumble in each of the last two games. Today's fumble proved costly, as the Ravens were given the ball inside the red zone and managed to convert on a third-down touchdown pass to Dennis Pitta, giving the Ravens the first lead of the game.
--The Redskins' inability to contain opposing tight ends continues to be an issue, as sophomore tight end Dennis Pitta got open for 46 yards and a score. This is consecutive weeks that the Redskins have been exposed, as Martellus Bennett caught five-of-seven targets last week for 82 yards and the Giants' only touchdown.
--The Redskins' kickoff unit struggled this week, trying to directionally kick away from Jacoby Jones and accidentally kicking it out of bounds. NFL rules state that a kickoff out of bounds puts the ball at the 40-yard line, which luckily did not prove costly on that drive.
The Redskins came out red hot on offense, receiving the ball first and gaining 186 yards in two long drives. This is the most by any NFL team in the first quarter this season, and the most by the Redskins offense since gaining 189 yards in the first quarter against the Chicago Bears in the 1997 season. Quarterback Robert Griffin III was 7 years old when that game happened.
The Redskins leave the friendly confines of FedExField next week and travel to Cleveland for their final AFC North matchup of the year. Despite their 4-8 record headed into this week, the Browns are 3-3 at home this season and exemplify physical AFC North football. The Redskins need this win in order to keep their playoff hopes alive, and the team has played reasonably well on the road.
Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III on the status of his injured knee:
"If it's anything else [besides an ACL injury], I'll fight through it and I'll be out there next week."
Team wins don't get much more emotional than the Redskins' victory today at FedExField. The Redskins are finding unprecedented success from rookies, leaning on key performances by Robert Griffin III, Alfred Morris and Kirk Cousins to come away with the win.
With the team's fourth-straight win, the Redskins are over .500 for the first time since Week 1. This is the team's first four-game winning streak since Weeks 2-5 of the 2008 season, and gives head coach Mike Shanahan his highest win total with the Redskins. It also moves Shanahan into sole possession for 12th place all time in combined regular season wins (164), passing Joe Gibbs.
This was an exhausting victory for the Redskins, but one that the team should bounce back quickly from. The post game locker room was very business-like, as players acknowledged the victory coming off the field and then shifted their focus to battling the Browns next week. Look for the Redskins to take this success on the road, as they have become one of the most dangerous teams in the NFL.