The Washington Times - November 3, 2013, 10:39PM

ANALYSIS/OPINION

Redskins 30, Chargers 24

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Well, that wasn’t easy. At one point midway through the fourth quarter I turned to 106.7 The Fan’s Grant Paulsen and Comcast SportsNet’s Gary Carter and – with the Cowboys losing to Minnesota – casually mentioned how the Redskins were on the verge of being just a half-game behind Dallas in the NFC East. They both looked at me like I was insane. A 10-point lead with six minutes left is never exactly comforting with this team.

And so it was. Philip Rivers drove his team down field for a quick touchdown, the Redskins stalled at midfield trying to put the game away and San Diego drove for what, by all accounts, should have been the winning score.

But Washington’s defense, helped by some questionable San Diego play calls, held on to force a field goal and overtime, where the Redskins won the coin toss and the game with an opening touchdown drive.

Unfortunately for the Redskins, all they did was hold serve in the NFC East. The Cowboys (5-4) somehow avoided the devastating upset loss to Minnesota at home. And Philadelphia (4-5) annihilated Oakland on the road – a place Washington struggled to pick up a win.

But this is the week to pick up ground. The Redskins travel to Minnesota, which fell to 1-7 and has little to play for at this point. It’s a short week, yes, but that’s no different for the Vikings. You want to have any shot at the playoffs then this game is an absolute must. Meanwhile, Dallas plays at New Orleans (6-2) and Philadelphia is at Green Bay (5-2).

***

It was the game of Darrel Young’s life.

The genial fullback doesn’t get much attention. The Redskins have so many other options at the skill positions, after all. But on Sunday afternoon against the San Diego Chargers, Young made a difference in a 30-24 overtime victory at FedEx Field.

In his entire career, Young had one rushing touchdown. That came on Dec. 18, 2011 against the New York Giants. On Sunday, he tripled that total by punching the ball into the end zone three times, including the game-winning score on a 4-yard run with 8:59 left in the extra session.

“If you look at my first half, man, it was terrible, man, but they say it’s not about how you start, it’s how you finish,” Young said. “It’s a credit to the coaches and players just to trust me enough to be in that situation – with the ball in overtime.”

That’s not Young’s normal role. Washington has Alfred Morris and Roy Helu and, of course, quarterback Robert Griffin III to power its running game. But he was ready when called upon.

“We run so many running plays to our halfback sometimes and he’s a blocker and they lose him,” Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said. “And so to put him in that situation says a lot about our running game, our offensive line and [Young] does have the skills to make people miss.”

Washington ran the ball 40 times for 209 yards. Six different players contributed – even wide receiver Santana Moss and tight end Jordan Reed. Young carried the ball five times for 12 yards. His longest of the day was the winner. But he scored on a pair of one-yard touchdown runs to turn a 14-7 deficit into a 21-14 lead early in the fourth quarter. He even earned an appearance at the podium in the media room – usually reserved for Shanahan and Griffin after games

“I’m ecstatic for him,” offensive tackle Trent Williams said. “He’s always the guy getting dirty, clearing the hole for Alfred. And for him to actually get some glory and get sent to the podium, that’s big for him.”

***

Washington’s special teams unit finds new and inventive ways to struggle. This time the coverage units were okay – even if the return game was again pedestrian. It might have been because of the game situation, but Moss was back late on a kickoff in place of Josh Morgan. That could have just been because of a potential onside kick.

But the kicking game came up short. Kai Forbath had a 25-yard attempt blocked on that long first quarter possession. It was a deflating end to what should have been a productive drive. Shanahan was especially upset because the block appeared to come from Lawrence Guy, who was stationed on the line of scrimmage and not a few steps behind. That’s can’t happen. Forbath also had a 59-yard attempt blocked on the final play of the first half. It was still disappointing because Washington had the wind and Shanahan thought the attempt had a solid chance.

“You move on after any kick. It’s on to the next one,” said Forbath, who hit a key 47-yarder with 6:59 left to put the Redskins up by 10 points. “No point in worrying about the last one. So, I mean, I made the next one, and we’re going from there now.”

***

Meanwhile, Reed set the franchise record for most receptions by a rookie tight end. Reed caught four of the five passes thrown his way for 37 yards. He now has 38 receptions on the season. That passes Chris Cooley, who had 37 in 2004, and Stephen Alexander, who had 37 in 1998.

He even ran the ball for the first time this season, an 18-yard end around in the first quarter that helped Washington push the ball out of trouble deep in its own territory. It was the second-longest play in a 9:03 drive that ended with nothing thanks to a blocked field goal. His play is one reason

A guy says, ‘Hey, we need this play,’ and [Griffin] made it happen. We had a number of second efforts,” Shanahan said. “I think Jordan Reed had a couple of plays where it could have been short and he kept on running through arm tacklers and found a way to get some extra yardage as well.”

***

Funny reaction from Redskins middle linebacker London Fletcher when asked if he could remember a defensive stand like the one Washington had at the 1 to force the tying field goal and not allowing the winning score late in regulation.

“Really have to search the memory bank to think of a play like that,” Fletcher said.

Then he remembered: Super Bowl XXXIV. Fletcher’s Rams were desperately trying to hold off the Tennessee Titans. On the final play of the game, St. Louis linebacker Mike Jones tackled receiver Kevin Dyson an agonizing half-yard short of the goal line as time expired.

The stakes weren’t quite so high on Sunday at FedEx Field. But the Chargers couldn’t convert three chances from the 1. It was a coup for Washington’s defense. Fletcher wasn’t surprised that the Chargers used the smaller Danny Woodhead on first down.

Based on the personnel on the field, he figured San Diego was trying to confuse the defense: Run or pass? But Denver had scored out of a similar formation twice the week before. Nose tackle Barry Cofield asked Fletcher what to expect. Waiting to see who was on the field, Fletcher said to expect one play with the goal line package. With the nickel offense on the field? Be ready for the inside handoff. Two plays later the teams were headed to overtime.