A quiet day by Jordan Reed but a big day by the Redskins offense illustrated how many talented weapons quarterback Kirk Cousins has available to use.
In most games over the past few years, a two-catch day for tight end Jordan Reed would have spelled bad news for the Redskins' offense. Instead, Washington hung 26 points on a Minnesota defense that hadn't allowed more than 22 in the first nine weeks of the season.
Reed's 41 receiving yards were the fewest since a December 2015 game against Dallas, a game in which he sat on the sideline with Washington already clinching the NFC East title. His two catches were the fewest since Week 10 of the 2014 season.
In a game where the Redskins didn't have receiver DeSean Jackson, a big Reed day was expected. However, keeping with a trend that has played out throughout the 2016 season, the Redskins utilized an incredible amount of options offensively, and quarterback Kirk Cousins found a way to keep them involved.
Pierre Garçon has remained consistent – he led Washington with six catches and 81 yards Sunday. Jamison Crowder's emergence in his second season has been applauded repeatedly as he added to his team lead with a fifth touchdown catch. But perhaps the most surprising development has been Vernon Davis.
The 10-year veteran who grew up in D.C. has already matched his touchdown total from 2014 and 2015 combined with two in 2016. Each time the Redskins and Cousins go to him, something good seems to happen – literally. Davis has caught 26-of-29 passes targeted for him, putting him ahead of all NFL receivers with a catch percentage of 89.7.
Sunday was no different as Davis caught all three of his targets, the final of which was a 38-yard touchdown reception from Cousins.
"It was a play we practiced for weeks and weeks and weeks," Davis said. "I [came] down, [sold] the block, and then ran a wheel route up the red line, the left sideline. There was a [linebacker] sitting over there, No. 55 [Anthony] Barr, and Kirk had faith I would run by him, and we were able to get it done and also execute as well."
Davis's first touchdown of the season came in Week 6 against the Eagles, one where he celebrated by shooting the football over the goalpost as he has throughout his career. However, for the first time, Davis was flagged for the celebration. This time, Davis left the football behind after he scored, but kept his celebration in tact with an empty-handed shot.
"I always learn from my mistakes," Davis said, refraining from any shots towards NFL officiating. "Always listen, listen and learn. That's imperative for me. I learned from [getting fined last time] and I cannot put the team in a situation where we are being penalized. I was cognizant of that, and I was able to go out there and help this team score a touchdown and do it the right way."
Although it didn't happen immediately, the Redskins offense has created enough room for Reed and Davis to thrive. After topping 20 yards just once in the first five games of the season, Davis is averaging 72 yards per game over the last four. Reed meanwhile remains tied for fourth among NFL tight ends in catches. Don't expect his two-catch performance to repeat itself again next week against the Packers.
It remains to be seen how short-handed the Redskins will be against Green Bay in Week 11. Jackson continues to work his way back from a shoulder injury while All-Pro left tackle Trent Williams will be serving the second of a four-game suspension. But just as the Redskins did when Reed missed a pair of games due to a concussion earlier this season, different players must step up.
"Since I've been in the league, I haven't seen many teams that can come out and execute like that," Davis said. "We had a couple starters down, but like I said before, we believe in each other and we believe in ourselves that we will go out there and get the job done. Even if our starters aren't out there, we can still move the ball, still make plays defensively, make tackles, and take care of our assignments."