- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 27, 2015

PHILADELPHIA — When Pierre Thomas signed with the Washington Redskins a little more than two weeks ago, he talked about the energy he felt in the locker room.

The nine-year veteran running back, who spent eight seasons with the New Orleans Saints and won a Super Bowl, said he saw a team on the cusp of success with a laser-narrowed focus. With a little hope, Thomas thought, he’d be able to impart some leadership on this team to help them achieve their goal of making the playoffs, and in the process, prove he could still play.

Both of those things happened on Saturday night as the Redskins beat the Eagles, 38-24, to clinch the NFC East title at Lincoln Financial Field. Thomas caught seven passes for 67 yards and rushed for 22 yards on four carries.

Two of his catches went for 23 yards on the Redskins‘ final scoring drive. The first was a nine-yard reception on second-and-8 from the Washington 47-yard line. The other came on second-and-11 from the Eagles’ 35-yard line. Thomas picked up 14 yards and another first down, helping the Redskins move the chains on a drive that ended with a Kirk Cousins 13-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Pierre Garcon. Thomas also rushed twice for 18 yards on the drive.

There was an opportunity for Thomas to step up on Saturday once running back Matt Jones was ruled out with a hip injury. Running back Chris Thompson was also active since missing the last two games because of a torn labrum in his left shoulder, but Thomas played 32 snaps to Thompson’s eight. Alfred Morris played 35.



“[Thomas] is very important, that’s why he’s here,” coach Jay Gruden said. “The reason why Pierre is here is because he’s a clutch player. It’s his history. It’s in his DNA. He’s just made big plays throughout his career on third down when you need him and we’re lucky to get him.”

Thomas had played just five snaps in his first two games with the Redskins — and just one last week in a win against the Buffalo Bills.

He was onto something though, when he assessed the Redskins before he signed here. The team was fresh off a 19-16 loss to the Dallas Cowboys but Thomas felt they were close to success, and the Redskins went on to win the next three games.

Thomas was one of the last pieces general manager Scot McCloughan signed off the streets this season and evolved into a key contributor, following players such as cornerback Will Blackmon and inside linebacker Mason Foster.

“It wasn’t just me, I did my little part, but these guys did it all,” Thomas said. “I’d seen it when I first stepped in. I’d seen they had the potential and just had to believe and they did. I talked to a couple of these guys one-on-one because I’m still trying to earn their respect. But I feel like I earned their respect and showed it today. I tried my best to show this old guy still has some juice in his system, but these guys did a heck of a job and I’m proud of them.”

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