Last Sunday, fans were treated to one of the absolute best games of the 2017 NFL season, and one of the grittiest performances that a Washington Redskins team has put in for a long time. The Redskins overcame what seemed an insurmountable amount of injuries at key positions, as well as a late Seahawks touchdown that could have easily sucked the wind out of Washington’s sails, to come away with a hard-fought, all important 17-14 victory over the Seahawks. That type of perseverance is sure to muddle the, but could also serve to springboard the Redskins to a solid back half of the season.
Even the most optimistic of the Redskins faithful came into the matchup scratching their heads. How on earth was a team that didn’t even have enough guys to field a full healthy roster, going to compete with a surging 5-2 team, that had really only one key injury?
Old fashioned blood and guts, that’s how.
There’s no other explanation for it – this was a team missing 80% of their offensive line, their most reliable receiver, two staring defensive linemen, one starting middle linebacker, and a secondary so banged up, that a 14 year veteran coming off the PUP list with no practice, was easily the choice to start at safety.
Let’s talk about that guy first.
is in his fourteenth NFL season. Not his fourth, his fourteenth. He was of course on the PUP list because he tore his ACL last year. That’s an injury that is tough to return for anybody, let alone somebody in their thirties and not their twenties. In fact, it’s only 30 years ago when surgical advances weren’t what they are today, that a torn ACL could very well mean the end of your playing days in any sport.
Hall gets activated mid-week, and not only is ready to play against the Seahawks, but gets the start. Not only does he get the start, but he plays all 83 defensive snaps, and plays well. Seamless. Like he’d been at training camp, and played seven games already – not out since Week 3 of 2016. That’s incredible in of itself. Then the guy that is defying the odds to even be out there, is actually the guy that breaks up a VERY promising last second hail mary.
That’s storybook stuff right there. The only reason you don’t dream about that kind of thing in your youth, is because your dreams would never include injuries. But if they did, you’d create a scenario that was exactly what Hall did. You’d come back from serious injury – maybe even because your team just needed you to – and you’d be the guy responsible for making the game winning play.
And Hall was.
That’s one of the best Redskins stories in a long time if you let it be. And you should. Hall earned it.
Truthfully, there were great individual performances throughout the lineup.
Zach Brown had not only his best game as a Redskin, but the best game a Redskins linebacker has had, since London Fletcher was busting heads. The commentators eventually ended up gushing over him, because they just said his name so many times. He was seemingly in on every play, and certainly every big play. Brown now has 10 more tackles than any other player in the NFL, and much of the league has still played a game more than him.
Pay the man. Long term. He’s a fantastic football player.
Waxing poetic about the individual performances too much, might take away too much credit from the two guys who perhaps deserve the most – Jay Gruden and Greg Manusky.
It would be completely irresponsible to look at a team that overcame SIXTEEN injured players, and came away with a win, and not look at their head coach. Gruden was hand-strapped on plays he could call because of a lack of personnel, he obviously kept spirits high despite overwhelming odds, and he put together a game plan that beat one of the better teams in the league in their own barn. And in inclement weather conditions.
With a patchwork offensive line, Gruden couldn’t even rely on some heavy jumbo packages to help them, because the Redskins only had two healthy tight ends. He had to count on two offensive linemen that had never played a full NFL game until Sunday.
And at the end of the day, the Redskins made fewer mistakes than the Seahawks did. They played with more discipline and had fewer penalties. They overcame the crowd noise of the vaunted “12th man” crowd.
It’s lofty stuff to overcome all of that and get a win.
Given all of that, you could still make an argument that Gruden wasn’t even the best coach on the Redskins sideline on Sunday. Manusky was that good.
The Redskins defense has more injury holes than a piece of swiss cheese. That didn’t seem to bother the first year Redskins defensive co-ordinator. In fact, in some ways his ingenuity on how to work around the problems perhaps created something that wasn’t there before the injuries. It was like Zach Brown had a governor taken off of him. Do you think a former NFL linebacker turned coach might have had anything to do with that?
For a lot of the game, the Redskins offense struggled to score on a staunch Seahawk defense. The Redskins defense kept them in the game. A pessimist would say that three missed field goals had a lot to do with that, but those attempted field goals were brought about by a defense that may have times bent, but didn’t break.
Manusky slotted in Anthony Lanier, and Lanier was somehow seemingly as effective as injured starters Jonathan Allen (IR) and Matt Ioannidis were. That’s a credit to both guys.
Like Gruden, Manusky made so much with what seemed like so little, that it’s tough not to see it as the most impressive job of defensive coaching since Gregg Williams was in D.C.
So the Redskins defy all odds, come away with a victory, and keep themselves at least within playoff striking distance at 4-4. Does it really even matter if a team has to line up every single duck that they have, just to earn one victory?
Well maybe if those daunting circumstances start to change, they can. And they have.
The Redskins that do have to face another tough challenge this week in the 6-2 Minnesota Vikings, will at least be a much healthier bunch.
The following players were limited at practice, but didn’t even play against Seattle – OT Ty Nsekhe (core muscle), C Spencer Long (knees), WR Jamison Crowder (hamstring), G Shawn Lauvao (stringer), Jordan Reed (hamstring), and Brandon Scherff (knee). Obviously being limited at practice isn’t ideal, but there’s a good chance that some-to-many of these players will be available this week. The offensive line alone could see three of the starting five return, and that would leave Trent Williams as the only remaining wounded soldier.
Gruden himself acknowledged that guys returning from injuries wasn’t going to fix everything though, “Now it’s a matter of getting them back up to speed, making sure we get them mentally right as well as physically. It is looking a little bit better.”
He’s right, it is looking a little better.
If the Redskins can come up with a similar performance this week against the Vikings, then there’s no reason to believe that they won’t be in a good position to earn another victory.
Then the Redskins will again be on the plus side of .500, and that could set them up to open some eyes, and make run at a Wild Card spot down the stretch. They’re certainly going to be tough to play against if last Sunday is the new barometer.