Although the numbers may not reflect their improvement, the Redskins leaned heavily on the defense during the seven-game winning streak to the playoffs.
By lowering their average points per game by more than a touchdown and winning the turnover battle in six-of-seven games (plus-10 turnover margin), the defense showed resilience and cohesion down the stretch.
This success came largely without the contributions of three starters: defensive end Adam Carriker, outside linebacker Brian Orakpo and strong safety Brandon Meriweather, each lost to season-ending injury.
Pro Bowl selections London Fletcher and Ryan Kerrigan received much of the credit for the unit's turnaround, and deservedly so. Others veterans like Deangelo Hall, Josh Wilson, Madieu Williams, Rob Jackson and captains Barry Cofield and Stephen Bowen made valuable contributions.
But one of the more unheralded stalwarts down the stretch was long-time Redskins safety Reed Doughty, who started 10 games this season, including the final four.
Filling in for Pro Bowl safety Brandon Meriweather was a difficult challenge, but one that Doughty readily accepted.
"I've been the same guy for seven years," said Doughty after the team's playoff loss to the Seahawks. "I approach the game the same every week."
On a squad that has seen dozens of new faces in recent years, Doughty is one of the few holdovers from the Joe Gibbs era.
Despite rarely sitting atop the Redskins' depth chart, Doughty has averaged 10 starts over the last three season, and has not missed a game since 2010.
"No. 1, he's here for a reason. He's a warrior. He does everything you ask him to do," head coach Mike Shanahan said of Doughty. "When people go down, he plays at a very high level. He'll be prepared, he'll do the little things the right way and he's a guy who can come in and play the strong safety, free safety position and make plays.
"He's they type of guy that you need on your football team to win."
Doughty made an immediate impact in 2012, coming off the bench in Week 1 against the New Orleans Saints.
The game turned into a shootout in the second half, and came down to the final possession in the final minute of the game. Drew Brees and the Saints drove the ball down into Redskins territory, trailing by eight.
With one second remaining on the clock, Brees dropped back to pass, looking for one more shot at the end zone. Jumping in front of the pass, Doughty registered his second career interception, sealing the Redskins' first victory of the season.
In addition to battling opposing offenses this season, Doughty also battled teammates Dejon Gomes for playing this this season.
While the coaching staff likes the development they have seen out of Gomes, they appreciate the consistency they have in Doughty.
For what it is worth, Doughty doesn't care whether he starts or comes in off the bench. Either way, he will be ready when called upon.
"I think that people go down and you have to be ready to go," Doughty said. "You can't miss a beat."
Doughty embodied that mentality in the team's playoff game against the Seahawks, registering the best statistical game of his career.
"He was awesome. He was everywhere," teammate Ryan Kerrigan said of Doughty after the game. "He's a very physical guy, very physical safety and was very physical at the line of scrimmage today."
Charged with spying mobile quarterback Russell Wilson, Doughty finished with 13 tackles, two sacks, and one pass defensed, according to coaches' stats. The two sack-performance was the first of his career, and his first sack since 2010.
After the game, Doughty said he was just matching the intensity the defense has shown all season.
"I think defensively we've been opportunistic," Doughty said. "You can't sit back and watch. You've got to go take your shot."
Doughty finished the season with 68 tackles (sixth most on the team), three tackles for loss, three quarterback hits, two passes defensed, and one interception.
Even more importantly, Doughty played a key role on special teams, trailing only Pro Bowl special teamer Lorenzo Alexander in special teams tackles (22). Doughty was second on the team in special teams tackles in 2011 as well.
"[Doughty] is a difference-maker on special teams," Shanahan said. "He can do everything you possibly can to make sure football team successful."
Even though the season ended with an anticlimactic exit from the playoffs, Doughty said he and the whole team has a lot to be proud of, in reflection.
"It was a special season for me personally," Doughty said. "Just being here for quite a long time and being with some guys that I really respect, like London [Fletcher], and Lorenzo [Alexander] and Kedric Golston and some of these other guys I've been with for a long time here.
"To pull off a season like this, it obviously had a lot to do with the young guys not just the guys that have been here awhile. That was special I think for some of the veterans."
With another year of experience under everyone's belt, Doughty has confidence that the success of 2012 is no mirage. Instead, he expects the Redskins to experience long-term success.
"Hopefully those young guys will get a feel for [winning] and get it in position to make a run next year."