A slew of injuries affected the Redskins Sunday, but multiple players came up big in Washington's first win of the season, one that took a complete effort from all three units.
Finding positives through the first two weeks of the 2016 season was difficult for the Washington Redskins, but if there was a silver lining to the team's 0-2 start, it was health.
Unfortunately for the Redskins, the injuries came early and often Sunday afternoon. It was one of numerous adversities faced in what was a wild and vital 29-27 win over the New York Giants. A big reason for the Redskins success was the contributions received from those who usually don't see many snaps.
"It's always the next man up mentality," starting Mike linebacker Will Compton said. "It's been that way since [defensive coordinator] Joe [Barry's] been here and I feel like guys did a great job of not blinking and coming in, filling in and doing a good job. I don't know what's up with everybody that got hurt, but I'm praying for them and I hope they're okay. But if not I feel like we've got a group of guys who can fill in."
Defensively, it was the secondary that was hit hardest. Cornerback Bashaud Breeland (lower leg) was the first to go down for Washington and he was joined on the sidelines by safety DeAngelo Hall (knee) later in the first half.
"The X-rays are good," Breeland said of his injury. "We're waiting on the MRI tomorrow. I'll find out then. I'm not sure man. I ran into the ball and tweaked my ankle a little bit. Tried to put some pressure on it and couldn't I watched the game in here. It was exciting. I liked how my guys kept it up. I was nervous and scared. Like any injury you're nervous and scared. But, I was more worried about letting my team down, but they pulled it out so I feel a little better."
Despite the losses, Washington's secondary barely missed a beat. The Redskins limited Giants quarterback Eli Manning, who entered Sunday's game leading the NFL in completion percentage, to 12 completions on 26 passes in the second half.
Hall's fill-in at safety, Will Blackmon, used a powerful two-hand strip to force a fumble of New York running back Shane Vereen for one of Washington's three takeaways. Meanwhile at cornerback, Quinton Dunbar provided two of the day's biggest highlights with a fourth-down catch on a fake punt pass from punter Tress Way, and, probably more importantly, a ridiculous one-handed interception of Giants' quarterback Eli Manning in the end zone.
Check out the top photos of Spencer Long from the 2015 season!
"When the opportunity presented itself, I just made a play – it brought make memories," said Dunbar, who played wide receiver in his college days at Florida. "It was pretty cool. I give it to God. God made that play. I just went out there and played my technique. I just put my hand up. I just located the ball and got my hand up and made a play. On 3rd down, Coach came up to me and said, 'We're going to make it and we're going to call this play so be ready.' I focused in and when they called the play, I made the play."
Offensively, DeSean Jackson was able to bounce back and return to the game after an awkward landing while diving for a pass. Matt Jones took a nasty hit from New York safety Nat Berhe and was forced to go through the concussion protocol before returning to the game. In Jones' absence, rookie running back Rob Kelley made his debut with four carries for seven yards. Jones returned to finish with 65 yards on 17 carries.
The offensive line was forced to scramble as well as both guard Shawn Lauvao (ankle) and center Kory Lichtensteiger (calf) left the game and did not return. Spencer Long first came in at guard for Lauvao, but when Lichtensteiger couldn't continue, Long moved to center.
With Lauvao and Lichtensteiger injured, only tackle Ty Nsekhe remained as the last active offensive lineman available. In a turn of events that nobody could have expected – especially the most affected person – four-time Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams moved inside to left guard. It was the first time Williams has played guard in his life.
As Nsekhe ran on the field, Williams's first thought was, "Alright, we have a really tall left guard, but we're going to make it work." Instead, the 6-foot-8 Nsekhe told Williams that Williams would be the one playing guard.
"I only had 30 seconds to think about it and I just had to go to the flow," Williams said.
The incredibly athletic Williams looked like a natural, taking out two Giants defenders on Jamison Crowder's 55-yard receiver screen touchdown. A spectator unaware of the Redskins offensive line injury situation likely wouldn't have noticed the unit was missing two members.
The offensive line ended up starring in Washington's game-winning drive that featured eight carries and 37 yards rushing Jones.
"Just to have all the penalties and turnovers, the injuries, they really take a toll on our team," defensive end Ricky Jean-Francois said. "They showed you the next man up. The next man going to come, the next man going to do it. It didn't matter where. You see Trent even moved to guard. It was to the point, we were hoping to hold the line down because (defensive lineman) Matt (Ioannidis) was going to be the next one, but you've seen this team stand together and came together as the Washington Redskins and when out and did what we have to do to get the 'W.'"