- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 20, 2011


Did you notice? How could you not? At the end of regulation Sunday, when the Washington Redskins desperately needed a touchdown to send their game against the Dallas Cowboys into overtime, they were throwing the ball in the direction of Donte Stallworth and David Anderson and handing it off to Tashard Choice.

This is what it has come to for Mike and Kyle Shanahan, the Redskins‘ twin offensive oracles. They’re trying to break a five-game losing streak by leaning on Stallworth (waived two weeks ago and then re-signed), Anderson (picked up around the same time as a street free agent) and Choice (an Oct. 31 waiver wire acquisition who was making his Washington debut).

And amazingly, the Redskins nearly did get back in the win column. Let’s talk about that for a moment before returning to the gloom and doom of a 3-7 record and a 27-24 OT defeat. Let’s talk about the Redskins, for the first time since their disastrous string of injuries started, not coming unraveled at the slightest hint of trouble and actually rallying from a 10-point deficit.

As Jabar Gaffney put it, “Usually when we [fall behind this season], it goes downhill.” (And quickly, I might add.) “But not today.”

No, not against the Cowboys. Against their most bitter rivals, the Redskins regained some of the professionalism they seemed to have lost in a series of less-than-stout performances, performances that appeared to be way too accepting of their unfortunate circumstances. The injured-reserve list keeps getting longer, sure, but that’s no excuse for not scoring a first-half touchdown for five straight weeks, for never once leading in a game — or for that 23-0 atrocity in Toronto, where the Buffalo Bills abused John Beck to the tune of 10 sacks.

So there the Redskins were Sunday, coming back on the Cowboys with a help of a 23-yard pass to Anderson on third-and-7 (which led to their first touchdown) and some fine work by Stallworth on the final drive of regulation (three catches for 33 yards, including a 4-yarder for the tying TD). Two plays before Stallworth’s score, moreover, it was Choice — not Ryan Torain or Roy Helu — who got the call over right tackle from the Dallas 2 (where, alas, he was waylaid by two Cowboys for a 2-yard loss.) And two plays before that, in the face of a blitz, Anderson was Rex Grossman’s intended receiver.

Donte Stallworth, David Anderson and Tashard Choice. How’s that for resourcefulness, folks? And by the way, have you fellows met?

“You make plays, they put you on the field,” Anderson said. “I’m excited to be on the field at that time in the game. I just wish I’d been able to do more. On that last one, I got bumped [off his route], and it threw our timing off.”

Excited. That’s what has been missing from the Redskins the past several weeks — excitement. Instead, they’ve looked dazed and confused as they attempted to fashion an offense with so many missing parts. (And Sunday, incidentally, they lost another: Trent Williams, their promising left tackle, who suffered what Mike Shanahan called an “MCL” injury while blocking on Graham Gano’s missed 52-yard field goal try in overtime.) But maybe, if they play with the enthusiasm they did Sunday, the Redskins can find a way to win one (or more) of their final six games — and avoid the ignominy of 12 consecutive defeats.

That’s kind of where they are: finding a way, whether it’s beginning the game with two end-arounds (as they did against Dallas), running a quarterback draw on the goal line with one of the slowest QBs in the NFL (as they also did against Dallas) or driving down the field in the late going with Stallworth, Anderson and Choice — three players who, not so long ago, didn’t even belong to them — in the lineup.

“Honestly,” Stallworth said, “I didn’t know who was in and who wasn’t.” And even if he did know who was in, he might not have known who was in — if you know what I mean. Not in any personal sense, at least.

“You go with the guys you’ve got,” Gaffney said. “Donte, Tashard, David — those guys were just ready to play.”

And thanks to two short fields resulting from a shanked Cowboys punt and a 32-yard punt return by Brandon Banks, the Redskins finally were able to put some points on the board and make a game of it — to the surprise, no doubt, of many in the FedEx gathering of 80,122. Indeed, victory was so close, they could reach out and touch it.

The first time they touched it came midway through the fourth quarter, when an underthrown pass by Tony Romo was deflected by Ryan Kerrigan and wound up in the hands of tight end Martellus Bennett for a 13-yard gain. The score was 17-17 at the time. Were Kerrigan a touch taller — or had the throw been a touch shorter — the Redskins likely would have gotten the ball inside the Dallas 20. Three plays later, Romo avoided the rush and hit Jason Witten, another of his tight ends, for a 59-yard touchdown. So close.

Then, in OT, a potential game-winning field goal from 52 yards was on Gano’s foot … only to drift right. That was the second time the Redskins touched victory. The Cowboys didn’t allow them a third, moving to the Washington 21 behind completions of 14 yards to Bennett and 26 to Dez Bryant to set up Dan Bailey’s 39-yard clincher.

Another Redskins loss was in the books. But it wasn’t like the others we’ve seen since bye week. This time the opponent punched, and the Redskins counterpunched. This time the Redskins exhibited a pulse. Hey, it’s something. In moments like these, a team — and its fans — cling to anything they can.

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