- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 13, 2019

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — The Washington Redskins have their first win of the year, and they did so by sticking to a formula that led them to victories last year.

But boy, did they barely hold on.

The Redskins edged out a 17-16 victory Sunday over the Miami Dolphins behind a strong running game and a stout defense — two traits they relied on heavily in 2018. Adrian Peterson rushed for 118 yards on 23 carries and the defense stopped a two-point conversion with six seconds left to preserve the victory.

With just over two minutes left, Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who replaced Josh Rosen in the fourth, stormed down the field to score. Miami went for two, but Fitzpatrick’s pass to running back Kenyan Drake was incomplete.

Last Monday, the Redskins fired coach Jay Gruden and had hoped interim coach Bill Callahan could help turn this season around by instilling discipline and a tougher work ethic. Callahan, too, said Washington would get back to the run and be better on defense.

Still, experts and fans held low expectations for this matchup, and rightfully so given how awful both teams looked through the first five weeks of the season. ESPN’s Football Power Index assigned a “matchup quality score” of 0.0 to the game. Oddsmakers dubbed the game the “Ineptitude Bowl” and the “Toliet Bowl.”

Early on, Sunday’s contest lived down to the hype in terms of awfulness.

Neither team could generate any sort of offense in the first quarter, punting a combined six times. Peterson ran into a swarm of bodies, often wrapped up right away. The Dolphins had trouble picking up pressure as the Redskins sacked quarterback Josh Rosen three times over the first two series.

But all week, Callahan had discussed the importance of sticking with the run — and that’s exactly what the Redskins did to get out to a lead.

When the Redskins got the ball back with just 14 seconds left in the first, Washington went straight back to the ground game — ripping off gains of five, 18, eight and nine yards consecutively. Two plays later, Peterson gashed Miami’s defense, rushing for a season-long 25 yards.

Callahan’s hope was that by relying on the run, the Redskins would create better opportunities through the air.

That, too, happened. On the very same drive that Peterson dominated, Case Keenum led Terry McLaurin to an open spot in the back of the end zone — finding the rookie receiver for a 25-yard touchdown. McLaurin sold his route perfectly, breaking free after he fooled Ken Webster with a head turn and sprinting the opposite direction.

In the second half, the Redskins continued to control the pace until Miami’s late surge.

On Washington’s opening drive, Keenum found McLaurin again — this time on a fly route that resulted in a 33-yard score. The 24-year-old blew right past his defender and Keenum quickly saw it.

The Redskins made the decision to go back to Keenum this week in part because of his preparation, knowing where receivers are supposed to be at all times. After starting the first four games of the year, Keenum was benched midway through a Week 4 loss to the New York Giants and was inactive against the New England Patriots.

With Callahan in charge, Keenum got another opportunity and took advantage of it.

Defensively, the Redskins harassed Rosen and routinely snuffed out Miami’s plays. Midway through the quarter, linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton jumped a route, intercepting Rosen to get the ball back. It was the defense’s second interception of the afternoon as Quinton Dunbar also picked off Rosen in the first half.

By the start of the fourth quarter, trailing 17-3, Miami benched Rosen and turned to Fitzpatrick, who started the first two games of the year.

The move worked. Fitzpatrick engineered a nine-play, 55-yard drive that ended with a one-yard rushing touchdown from running back Kalen Ballage. The score cut Washington’s lead to 17-10 with just under 11 minutes left.

The Redskins, though, couldn’t fully put the Dolphins away. Miami got another chance with just over two minutes left, marching down the field.

But the Redskins held on, and have their first victory as a result.

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