- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 9, 2012

To Richard Crawford, it was so simple. Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan told him Friday he’d be replacing Brandon Banks on punt returns, so he got his mind right and prepared.

When he stood downfield to return in overtime Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens, it was just a matter of running.

“It was kind of like the Red Sea,” Crawford said. “I saw where I had to go and I just ran that way.”

Crawford ran 64 yards, electrifying the crowd at FedEx Field as he put the Redskins well within Kai Forbath’s field goal range. Not a bad debut for the seventh-round pick who had been inactive for the past five games.

“A heck of a job for your first game in the National Football League with a lot on the line,” Shanahan said. “It’s always good to see guys step up, and he did.”

In light of Cedric Griffin’s four-game suspension, Crawford was passed over at cornerback by D.J. Johnson for playing time on defense, but he showed enough potential to earn a chance returning punts. Shanahan wanted an extra body active on the defensive side, so it meant Crawford on punts, Niles Paul on kickoffs and a difficult conversation with Banks, who has struggled on returns this season.

“I said, I think these guys deserve an opportunity to show us what they can do both in the kickoff return and the punt return,” Shanahan said. “But we might need you next week or the week after that, so keep on working. I’m not sure when your next opportunity will come, but you’ve got to help our football team win.”

Crawford did his part to help the Redskins win Sunday, pushing them to 7-6. But his game-breaking performance didn’t surprise teammates.

“If you were watching him in preseason, you would know that’s how he plays,” Paul said. “[Special teams coach Danny Smith] trusts him, and he was out there making plays.”

Crawford took his place as one of the heroes against the Ravens, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t a little upset at himself for not scoring on the punt return.

“I ran out of gas, to be honest with you. When I hit midfield, I was tired. I don’t know what happened,” he said. “I’m never tired. They usually call me ‘Energizer Bunny’ at practice because I’m always running around.”

Jackson forces turnover

Just when the Ravens were threatening to go up by two scores early in the third quarter, Rob Jackson made a game-changing play. Finally getting some pressure on Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco, he stripped the ball and recovered the fumble.

“I just beat [the lineman] around the edge. I saw the ball, went for it, went and got it,” Jackson said. “Just like that.”

The Redskins settled for a field goal, but Jackson knew how big of an impact his turnover could make.

“We needed some momentum for us,” veteran linebacker London Fletcher said. “That was a big momentum swing for us.”

Paul down after fumble

Paul had the chance to validate Shanahan’s trust late in the fourth quarter on a kickoff return with the Redskins down eight and less than five minutes left. Near the left sideline, he fumbled the ball and it looked like the Ravens‘ David Reed recovered.

It would’ve essentially ended the game, but a replay review showed Reed was out of bounds before he gained possession.

“I knew I messed up. It can’t happen,” Paul said. “It shouldn’t happen. It should never happen.”Paul said he was “down” after the mistake, even as he had some relief that the call was overturned. Even backup quarterback Kirk Cousins finishing off the game-tying drive didn’t cheer him up.

“I know that I took away the possible momentum that we would’ve had, any momentum we would’ve had, on that fumble,” he said. “I take what I do serious. I really just wanted another opportunity to go out there and make a play.”

Extra points

• Running back Alfred Morris lost a fumble for the second time in as many games on the same day he broke the Redskins‘ rookie record for carries. He finished with 23 carries for 122 yards.

• Left tackle Trent Williams said he was hurting after the win and understands that his thigh injury won’t get better until he gets rest. “I expect it not to feel good,” Williams said. “I’m used to playing through pain at this point.”