- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 22, 2019

LANDOVER — The Redskins had done it. Backed up at their own goal line, Case Keenum had successfully navigated a 99-yard drive and helped score a touchdown with less than a minute left.

Now, they faced a decision: Should they go for two?

Redskins interim coach Bill Callahan decided for the extra point — and ultimately fell 41-35 in an overtime loss Sunday against the New York Giants. It was a choice that prompted reporters to ask why the Redskins — now 3-12 on the season — didn’t go for the win, even asking it ahead of an update on Dwayne Haskins’ ankle injury.

Callahan stood firm after the game.

“I felt good that we would go into overtime and just thought it was the right decision,” Callahan said. “Guys were playing hard and I thought our defense had an opportunity to make a play in the overtime. Unfortunately, we didn’t get that type of stop.”



Callahan said he felt “confident” in his defense — a squad that gave up a career-high five touchdowns to rookie quarterback Daniel Jones.

The Redskins, too, were playing with a depleted secondary that had players like Kayvon Webster and Coty Sensabaugh at cornerback, despite the two being signed on Tuesday. Washington even lost starter Danny Johnson, who was filling in for Quinton Dunbar (hamstring) and Fabian Moreau (hamstring) to a hand injury.

The Redskins’ defense had played well enough down the stretch to help Washington climb out of a 14-point deficit. Washington’s offense had been playing well enough to the point it wasn’t hard to see it scoring if it got the ball in overtime.

Still, the move was safe — a label associated with Callahan since taking over as Redskins coach in Week 6. Across the NFL, teams have increasingly become aggressive when deciding when to go for two or when going for it on fourth down.

Entering Week 16, there had been 104 two-point conversions — 50 of which were successful. That’s a rate of 48%. Of those teams, the Atlanta Falcons (6-9) were the most aggressive, going for it a league-high nine times. The Falcons are just 2-of-9 on those attempts, however.

In some cases, a team’s players will actively campaign for their coach to go for it. Across town, Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson will often get on coach John Harbaugh to trust his offense. The Ravens, who rely heavily on analytics, have taken teams by surprise with how aggressive they’ve been on fourth down this year.

In Washington’s case, it wasn’t clear if its players made the same type of push.

“I was a little out of breath, to be honest,” Keenum said. “Maybe if I had thrown it in instead of running around like I was doing, I might’ve asked them to go for two. At the moment, I was okay with kicking the extra point.”

The Redskins have also seen what it’s like for a team to try to steal a game at the last second, only for it to backfire. In October, the Miami Dolphins’ furious fourth-quarter comeback fell short when they failed to convert the two-point conversion. That play, a screen pass to Kenyan Drake, was immediately snuffed out by Washington’s defense and the Redskins won their first game of the year.

Critics, though, will wonder what did Washington, given its record, really have to lose by not going for it.

“I just (wanted) to give our team a chance,” Callahan said. “I just felt at that time, we tied it and go into overtime. I felt that it was the right decision to make for our team.”

 

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