- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 18, 2018

LANDOVER — Joe Theismann was in the building for the Washington Redskins‘ annual “Homecoming” game, and that might be the worst part of all. The game was overshadowed by an ugly injury that surely provided the old quarterback unwelcome flashbacks.

After the Redskins lost Alex Smith to a gruesome broken leg in the third quarter on the 33rd anniversary of Theismann’s career-ending leg injury, they lost the game, too, a 23-21 defeat to the Houston Texans at FedEx Field.

Smith was injured in the third quarter when Kareem Jackson moved behind Smith while wrapping him up for a sack and J.J. Watt joined in on his front side. As a result, Smith tumbled over himself and his right leg contorted.

Colt McCoy entered the game and threw a touchdown on his first drive, then helped the team pull into the lead. But his efforts, and the team’s, fell just short as they could not make progress in the waning, most critical moments. Dustin Hopkins missed an improbable, would-be game-winning field goal from 63 yards away.

McCoy finished 6-for-12 for 54 yards and a touchdown, plus 35 rushing yards. Adrian Peterson had 51 rushing yards and two touchdowns and Mason Foster grabbed two takeaways for Washington (6-4).

Houston notched its seventh straight win after an 0-3 start to the season, extending its lead in the AFC South.

With Smith requiring surgery, McCoy will lead the Redskins forward at quarterback. He hasn’t started a game since 2014, but coach Jay Gruden said he likes his comfort level.

“I’m a big, firm believer in Colt McCoy’s ability to play football in the National Football League,” Gruden said. “This is an opportunity of a lifetime for him. I know he would like it in different circumstances but things happen for a reason.”

While Washington punted on its first two drives, the Texans’ offense kicked into gear early. They got on the board first with a short field goal, then with a 16-yard DeAndre Hopkins touchdown catch.

The Redskins bounced back with a 70-yard drive. A defensive holding call on Tyrann Mathieu kept them alive off a near-disastrous fumble on third down. Less than a minute after the quarter changed, Adrian Peterson walked in a 3-yard touchdown, setting himself up with a nasty cut outside to the left.

The Washington defense followed that up with its first takeaway of the afternoon when Mason Foster collected his seventh career interception. But the offense didn’t take advantage of field position inside Houston territory.

The next drive got closer, but was ruined by a rare red-zone miscue. Smith wanted to connect with Reed for a 9-yard touchdown on 3rd and goal. Reed seemed to slip when cutting and Smith’s pass sailed past him to rookie safety Justin Reid. Reid had a clear path to return the ball 101 yards for a touchdown.

On the Redskins‘ next third down, Smith scrambled and forced a pass toward Kapri Bibbs that linebacker Brennan Scarlett nabbed instead. This time the damage was minimal, as Ka’imi Fairbairn missed an ensuing field goal attempt.

Foster picked up his second takeaway on the Texans’ opening drive of the second half, though it should have been called another interception. DeAndre Hopkins bobbled a pass while Ha Ha Clinton-Dix brought him down, and the ball never hit the ground but Foster dove on top and stole possession. It was credited as a fumble.

On the following drive, Smith went down with his injury. He was carted off and the team immediately ruled him out for the day.

“It’s obviously a very unfortunate thing to happen, something that you say your prayers while it’s happening, and you just gotta get ready for the next play with Colt coming in,” center Chase Roullier said. “Game’s not over at that point and you just gotta keep pushing on.”

McCoy later expressed his gratitude to Preston Smith for giving Washington excellent field position by batting up a Watson pass from the line of scrimmage and intercepting it at the Houston 13. On McCoy’s first play, he ran the ball himself; on his second, he floated a touchdown to Reed in the far-left corner of the end zone. 

Coming in off the bench after an interception by Preston Smith gave Washington excellent field position at the Houston 13, McCoy ran the ball himself on his first play. On his second, he floated a touchdown to Reed in the far-left corner of the end zone. 

“We kind of had the look we wanted,” McCoy said. “He made a nice catch.”

Houston responded with a long drive and a field goal, making it 20-14 after three quarters.

McCoy led a 10-play, 62-yard drive that concluded with Peterson’s second rushing touchdown of the day. Peterson passed Redskins great and Hall of Famer John Riggins for sixth place all-time in career rushing touchdowns (105).

The point after on that touchdown pushed Washington ahead 21-20 — the first lead change the team has been a part of all season.

Down 23-21 after a long Fairbairn kick, McCoy’s brief magic started to fade and he took a sack on third down. The Texans regained possession with 4:38 and ran down the clock, but Fairbairn missed his second field goal of the day with less than a minute, lighting some hope within the Redskins’ faithful.

But Washington got as far as Houston’s 45, then trotted Hopkins on for a 63-yard attempt to win the game — which fell at least five yards short.

“I wish we would’ve won that game,” McCoy said. “We had a chance there at the end, we were battling the time and if I could’ve made a couple more plays we could get (Hopkins) a little closer kick.”

McCoy will now lead the Redskins to his home state of Texas to face the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving. Players agreed that the short week will require them to put Sunday’s events behind them faster.

“We’ll lick our wounds and pray for Alex,” McCoy said. “And we’ll gear up for going down to Dallas.”

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