- The Washington Times - Monday, December 17, 2018

ASHBURN — Ryan Anderson entered the Redskins’ locker room Monday, rapping loudly to no one in particular. Later on, linebacker Preston Smith did the same while sitting at his own stall.

A day after Washington’s 16-13 win Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the vibe at the team’s facility was noticeably different from what it had been in recent weeks.

It was cheerful.

“We needed that win,” said Ryan Kerrigan, who had two sacks. “We’d done too much good earlier in the season to just let it all go away after the bad stretch like we had. We’re still in this thing.”

The Redskins didn’t solve all their problems in Jacksonville, but they’re still very much alive in the NFC playoff race. Washington is a half-game back from Kirk Cousins and the Minnesota Vikings for the last wildcard spot — and trail the Cowboys by just a game after Dallas was shutout against the Indianapolis Colts for the division title.

And perhaps just as important, the victory helped alleviate some of the frustration that built over the course of Washington’s four-game losing streak.

In Jacksonville, the Redskins got back to their strengths — doing just enough offensively to control the clock, while shutting down the opposing offense.

“Any time you have a four-game losing streak, you’re going to have distractions,” coach Jay Gruden said. “Those are going to be brought to the forefront. Negativity is a very strong part of pro football when you have a four-game losing streak. It’s our job as coaches and their job as players to not give in and listen to all that stuff.

“But they continue to work and I’m proud of the fact that our guys have continued to do that.”

No one will crown the Redskins for beating a bad Jacksonville team. The Jaguars (4-10) had a porous offensive line and Cody Kessler hasn’t done much to prove he’s better than Blake Bortles.

But it would have been a disaster if the Redskins’ defense was further exploited. After giving up an average of 425.1 yards per game during their four-game losing streak, Washington allowed a season-low 192 yards against Jacksonville.

Kerrigan noted the Redskins got a consistent four-man pass rush, which he said “set the tone.” Washington had six sacks.

On offense, the Redskins controlled the time of possession, holding the ball for 33:06. They made quarterback Josh Johnson comfortable, using short throws and a variety of formations to get the veteran into a rhythm.

The Redskins also fed off Johnson’s energy. Johnson, after all, was searching for his first win as a starter in his career.

That energy, however, had to be controlled. Before the game, Gruden noticed Johnson playing catch when the quarterback “threw one 180 miles per hour at the guy and almost killed him.” Gruden’s advice? Calm down.

Johnson listened. He settled in and finished the game with 151 yards passing and 49 yards rushing, completing 64 percent of his passes.

“He was ready for it, man,” linebacker Mason Foster said. “It’s a good look for us, having a quarterback out there fighting, diving, doing what he has to do. I think guys rally behind that. It boosts everybody on the sideline and keeps us going.”

Washington still has to work to do in order to make the playoffs. The only way to win the division is if Dallas loses its last two, while Washington beats Nashville this Saturday and the Eagles in Week 17.

The Redskins can also secure the wildcard with a number of scenarios, even at 8-8.

Gruden said “there’s no question” his team will be grinding out the last two games. He wants his players to play with an edge.

“We need to have guys that really have a lot of passion and desire to want to win and get out of the rut,” Gruden said. “So, I don’t mind a lot of people speaking up and playing hard and speaking their mind and showing their competitive spirit on the practice field.

“But, also we’ve got to understand that this is about the team and everybody moving forward and playing together and being on the same page at the end of the day. I think our guys, for the most part, have done that.”


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