- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 13, 2019

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — All around the Redskins’ locker room Sunday, there was commotion. Defensive lineman Tim Settle bounced his head to the music playing from his portable speaker. Teammates Morgan Moses and Tony Bergstrom eagerly conversed about what had transpired on the field. As players like Ereck Flowers and Adrian Peterson talked to reporters, they smiled and laughed — something rarely seen over the first five weeks of the season.

It didn’t matter to the Redskins that they barely hung on in a 17-16 victory over the Miami Dolphins. Yes, Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Dolphins almost stole the game, scoring a touchdown with six seconds left — only to fail to convert a two-point attempt. And yes, they were facing the Dolphins, a team most consider to be tanking for the No.1 pick.

But on this occasion, a win was enough.

“Shoot, man,” Flowers said. “A big relief.”

The Redskins welcomed in the Bill Callahan era with a win reflecting the personality of their new coach.

After Washington (1-5) fired coach Jay Gruden last week and named Callahan the interim, the 63-year-old told reporters his players needed to get back to “fundamental football” by staying disciplined.

Callahan wanted the Redskins to dominate on the ground and be physical on defense. Under Gruden, Callahan had felt Washington had gotten away from a formula that worked last year.

He changed practice, stressing an up-tempo pace and attention to detail.

Against Miami, the Redskins were committed throughout the game to the run — picking up 145 yards on 33 carries.

They were stout on defense, giving up just three points in the first three quarters. They even limited their penalties, committing just six.

Still Miami came oh-so-close to ruining it all.

The veteran Fitzpatrick, who took over for Josh Rosen in the fourth quarter, marched the Dolphins downfield to scores twice.

Over the final two minutes, Fitzpatrick engineered a drive and found wide receiver DeVante Parker with a bullet to the end zone for the touchdown with seconds left.

On the conversion, the winless Dolphins chose to play for the victory instead of forcing overtime.

Fitzgerald’s attempted screen pass at the line of scrimmage bounced off running back Kenyan Drake’s hands, falling harmlessly to the ground.

The Redskins escaped.

“Our guys were resilient,” Callahan said. “That’s what we talked about all week — being relentless, being resilient — and I think it showed. … How we practiced this week transferred to the game. It was good to see that reality.”

For Washington, Miami’s failed two-point conversion was an example of how preparation through the week paid off.

Coming into the game, the Redskins were aware the Dolphins liked to run a lot of screens and when the defense saw Drake start in motion, they figured either a screen was coming or Fitzpatrick would have targeted Parker instead.

Even if Drake had caught it, four Washington defenders were there to make the play.

“They had been running screens to the back all game,” safety Landon Collins said. ” … We kind of knew one of those two guys were going to get the ball.”

In days before the game, fans and experts mocked the matchup — with some calling it the “Ineptitude Bowl” or the “Toilet Bowl.” Fans expected bad football, and the two teams delivered — punting six times in the first quarter. Washington’s razor-thin victory didn’t necessarily inspire confidence, either.

In the locker room, though, there was no talk of Sunday’s win turning around a season. Moses said he knows there is a lot to clean up.

But the Redskins were encouraged. They were pleased that Peterson rushed for more than 100 yards for the first time since last December. Callahan liked how Washington opened the second half, with quarterback Case Keenum finding Terry McLaurin for his second touchdown of the afternoon and then how the defense responded by picking off Rosen for the second time.

Sunday marked the first time this season that the Redskins had consistent success on the ground. After a slow start to begin the game, Washington ripped off an 18-yard gain in the second quarter, following it up with three straight runs.

“A lot of people don’t realize those one-yard gains are probably the most dangerous,” Moses said. “You’re still wearing the (expletive) out of the defense … and then you come back again, running it about three or four times and you get your five-or-six-yard gain.”

“You definitely get into (a) groove,” said Peterson, who had 118 yards on 23 carries.

Success on the ground opened up the passing game, too.

Keenum, who was re-named the starter on Friday, found McLaurin for three big plays, two of which resulted in touchdowns. Keenum wasn’t perfect — he threw for just 166 yards and completed 52% of his passes — but he played well enough that Callahan said the 31-year-old will start next week against the San Francisco 49ers.

As for the near-collapse, defensive lineman Jonathan Allen said it doesn’t matter how wins happen in the NFL.

Though Allen wasn’t overly ecstatic over the win — “I’m not jumping for joy,” he said — he acknowledged what a victory meant for him and his teammates.

“We were 0-5 and won our first game,” Allen said. “(Expletive) yeah, you’re going to be excited.”

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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