Today’s Christmas Eve contest, which could very well be Kirk Cousins’ last home game in a burgundy and gold uniform, began with a slow start from the Washington offense. Cousins and his teammates took nearly the entire first quarter to get a first down, which finally came with less than a minute remaining of the first 15. The offense’s two earlier drives consisted of three-and-outs with negative yardage, -6 and -1. Running back Samaje Perine, playing with a groin injury, failed to gain yardage on his carries, totaling -2 yards on the team’s first two drives, and the team’s ground game continued to flounder, as has been the case in recent weeks.
The defense, however, was effective during the opening 15 minutes. Though Denver dominated the time of possession, holding on to the ball for nearly 75% of the quarter, Washington limited them to only three points that came from a field goal at the end of a ten play drive. Linebackers Zach Vigil, Martrell Spaight, and Junior Galette, who’s continued to improve and flash in the closing weeks of the season, made the biggest impressions early on, teaming up force two three-and-outs and hold the Broncos to that field goal.
Shortly after the second quarter began, Denver quarterback Brock Osweiler made his first of two back-to-back drive-killing errors. Under pressure and facing a swarming defense that ultimately sacked him, Osweiler lost the football, which was recovered by linebacker Zach Vigil. After Washington got their hands on the ball, the offense seemed to find its rhythm. Former Denver running back Kapri Bibbs tallied 20 yards on two runs, building more momentum than Perine had earlier in the game, and Cousins hit wide receiver Jamison Crowder for a 15 yard touchdown to put the Redskins up 10-3.
When the defense returned to the field, safety D.J. Swearinger quickly returned the ball to the offense, stepping in front of a pass intended for Demaryius Thomas. Unlike their previous drive, which put seven points on the board, Washington’s offense couldn’t pull together any sort of success, and after losing eight yards, they were forced to punt and give the Broncos back the ball with 50 seconds left in the half. Luckily for Washington, rookie Isaiah McKenzie made an inexperienced mistake, failing to go down or get out of bounds when he caught the ball inside field goal range with seconds to go, and the clock ran out before Denver could try to close on Washington’s lead.
After deferring at the start of the game, Washington’s offense received the kickoff to start the second half. Cousins drove his team down the field, spreading the ball around to Crowder, Doctson, Ryan Grant, Josh Doctson, and Brian Quick, to move 83 yards with a chance at the end zone. Nonetheless, in a frustrating conclusion to the drive, Cousins threw a pass into the middle of the end zone, aiming for Doctson, and hit Broncos safety Will Parks for an interception. The defense, fortunately, kept Washington’s lead safe.
Though Denver had six shots with the ball in the second half, they couldn’t manage to add to their tally on the scoreboard until the game had seemingly reached garbage time, as Washington’s defense held them out of the end zone until the final few minutes of the game. The Redskins continually forced the Broncos into punting situations, and Pro Bowl linebacker Ryan Kerrigan made his presence known to Osweiler, finding his way into Denver’s backfield twice to take down the quarterback, bringing Kerrigan’s total for the season up to 11 sacks. He was joined by Preston Smith, who also took down the quarterback twice. Additionally, defensive lineman Anthony Lanier, who’s had big games in recent weeks, recovered a fumble that was awarded to Washington after the initial ruling of an incomplete pass was overturned upon review.
With the game increasingly in their grasp, the offense added 17 points to their score as they tried to bounce back from the fruitless opening drive of the second half. Cousins took the team on three scoring drives, which helped to balance out the aforementioned interception and the later fumble by Perine. On the first, the team went 55 yards and ultimately brought kicker Dustin Hopkins out to kick a field goal. On the second, the Redskins moved 77 yards down the field for a drive that ended in an easy, but beautiful, throw to a wide open Doctson, who exploited Denver’s blown coverage for a 48 yard touchdown catch. On the third, Cousins scrambled left, sacrificing himself on what looked like a big hit, and connected deep with tight end Vernon Davis for a 31 yard touchdown.
In a game that meant nothing in terms of the playoffs, Washington showed up. The team will still be left with question marks heading into the final contest of the season, including what should happen at the beleaguered running back position, but players and fans should feel fairly content with what took place on the field today. With any luck, the team can close out its season with a win against the New York Giants next week and bring 2017 to an 8-8 close instead of falling below .500 with a loss and a 7-9 record.
Which Redskins player deserves an extra present from Santa after their performance today?
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