Here's five takeaways from the Washington Redskins' Week 16 game against the Denver Broncos that took place at FedExField in Landover, Md.
1. Defense steps up for a second straight week, only allowing a touchdown late in a game that was well in hand.Entering Sunday's game against the Broncos, Denver waited until the last moment to name a starting quarterback. Whether it was to receive more time to simply determine the better fit in the lineup or gamesmanship, the Redskins faced veteran Brock Osweiler instead of Paxton Lynch.
While Osweiler and the entire Broncos offense was able to gain yardage at times, it was Washington's defense that set the tone in the matchup.
In total, Denver gained just 4.6 yards per offensive play while the Broncos' only trip into the end zone was when Washington was ahead 27-3 late in the fourth quarter.
"We played very well in all phases – playing the run, getting after the quarterback and playing great pass defense," said Redskins head coach Jay Gruden. "[I'm] very excited to see it. Last week, we didn't give up a touchdown and they played great red zone defense. This week, it carried over and played great total team defense all the way across the board."
Over Washington's last two games the defensive unit has allowed just 26 points. In the two games prior against the Dallas Cowboys and Los Angeles Chargers, they allowed 68.
"There's been a lot of guys rushing hard, guys like Anthony Lanier II, Matt Ioannidis, Ryan Kerrigan, Junior Galette, other guys that come in on blitzes, Josh Harvey-Clemons, Zach Vigil, [Martrell] Spaight, I happen to get to the quarterback a couple times," said linebacker Preston Smith, who finished the game with two sacks. "Guys are just trying to get to the quarterback, competing out there and just trying to put the best things on tape and to go out there and play as hard they can."
2. After a rough start offensively, the offense got into a groove against the league's best defense.Trent Williams joked after the game that he was concerned that the offense was going to struggle to get 100 yards on the day after the offense managed just 14 yards in the opening frame.
Check out the photos of the Redskins after their victory over the Broncos.
Cousins missed on his first five throws of the game while rookie running back Samaje Perine, who entered the game questionable due to a groin injury, picked up just one yard in the opening frame.
But as Denver failed to get out of their base defense according to Cousins, Washington took advantage by recording nearly 400 yards of total offense. Cousins would throw three touchdown passes while Perine, Kapri Bibbs and Cousins would combine for 87 rushing yards.
"I think that we were able to get into a kind of rhythm throughout the game, there were sometimes when things didn't really go our way," Crowder said. "I feel like Ryan Grant really made some big plays to kind of get us going and everybody was kind of able to get into a rhythm and we were able to move the ball down the field."
Entering Sunday's game, Denver was the stingiest defense, allowing just 276.8 yards per contest. The Redskins, though, would collect 386 yards of offense.
Only the New England Patriots (396) and Philadelphia Eagles (419) have gained more yardage on the Broncos this season.
"I think we tried to spread them out in different formations and get out tight ends matched up at the end of the day, you know, I can sit here and say it's great play calling but it's about our players and the players stepped up and made some plays," Gruden said.
3. Twice there was an #HBKerrigan sighting as Ryan Kerrigan continues to check off milestones.While he was quiet in the first two quarters of Sunday's game, Ryan Kerrigan got the best of Denver's offensive line and Osweiler in the third quarter, twice taking down the quarterback.
With his first sack, Kerrigan hit double-digits in the category for the third time in the last four years. Additionally, it was the first time a Redskins player has recorded at least 10 sacks in back-to-back seasons since both Charles Mann and Dexter Manley hit the mark during the 1985-86 seasons.
"He was great," Gruden said. "So happy he made the Pro Bowl, deservedly so. Usually for some reason he gets overlooked, for whatever reason, but he's been a phenomenal player for this organization for a long time and he showed again why he's such a valuable guy for this team."
Earlier in the week, Kerrigan was named to his third Pro Bowl as the Purdue product now has 69.5 sacks in his career.
In total, Washington sacked Osweiler four times on the afternoon as Smith also took down the Arizona State product twice.
"It's awesome to see him playing as well as he has been," Kerrigan said of Smith. "He's had a big impact on the game in the past couple weeks. Hopefully, he can finish it up this next week against New York."
4. On a day when Josh Doctson set a career-high in targets, the second-year receiver finally scored a touchdown in the second half.Dictated by how Denver's defense approached Washington's offense, Cousins targeted Doctson 13 times on the afternoon.
But the TCU product recorded just two catches for 61 yards, as the quarterback and wide receiver struggled at times to get on the same page. In the second quarter, it looked like Doctson had an easy touchdown catch in the red zone, but a normally sure-catch turned fell to the ground for an incompletion.
Cousins later targeted Doctson for another potential touchdown, but aggressive defense that could have been flagged for a penalty wasn't called.
Still, the offense continued to look for No. 18 before Cousins found Doctson for a wide-open 48-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.
"It was a good play call," the soft-spoken Doctson said of his score. "I just had to finish it."
While Doctson finished with just two catches on the day, the passing game could be centered around him even more next season.
"He's a great player and I think he's growing and he's going to get better and better," Gruden said. "Josh is going to get targets, he's one of our main guys out there."
5. The final touchdown of the day was a play in which Cousins continues to excel at on the field.While the Redskins were already in the driver's seat late in the game, the offense added one final touchdown when Cousins found Vernon Davis on a 31-yard score.
On 3rd-and-6, Cousins faked a handoff to Bibbs before rolling out to his left. It was there that the Michigan State product encountered an oncoming blitz right in his face. Despite the rush, Cousins was able to plant and throw a laser to Davis right at the front pylon of the end zone.
It is the kind of play Cousins has mastered over his years in the NFL.
"That's out keeper series which we've run here with me for many years," Cousins said. "I mean, my rookie year when I had my first start against Cleveland, we ran that type of play 11 times. That's always been a play I've done well. That's different than just dropping back or something.
"I think that the keeper series where I bootleg out has always been something we've done well, I've done well, that I really like and always ask for."
The touchdown reception was Davis' third of the season as the 12-year veteran now has more than 600 receiving yards for the first time since the 2013 season.
"Kirk and I, we've had some situations where we weren't able to connect. We just kept going after it and kept on just punching at it and all of a sudden, we were able to make it happen," Davis said. "We were able to connect and make it work."