Running back Chris Thompson does more than meets the eye on a weekly basis for the Redskins, but he was in the spotlight on Sunday with a game-winning 25-yard touchdown run.
Measuring Chris Thompson's importance to the Redskins is difficult. The numbers don't paint the picture of a star. It's safe to say Thompson won't be winning fantasy football games.
However, for what the Washington Redskins are trying to accomplish – a second straight playoff berth is the most immediate goal – Thompson is indispensable. From returning kickoffs to pass blocking to catching passes to coming through with a game-winning 25-yard touchdown run in Sunday's victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, Thompson does more than the box score can illustrate.
There is one specific skill above all that the Redskins fifth round pick in 2013 NFL Draft brings to the table: speed. Thompson showed it off on the first play after the two-minute warning as the Redskins faked an end around to DeSean Jackson and pitched it left to Thompson, who immediately had to evade a hard-charging Vinny Curry.
Thompson did so thanks to some excellent acceleration and then saw No. 71 – teammate and left tackle Trent Williams – in front of him.
"Before the play, [Williams] was like, 'Just stick with me,'" Thompson recalled.
As Williams was erasing a helpless cornerback in the form of Philadelphia's Jalen Mills, Thompson cut back upfield and shrugged off Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham, who was barely able to grasp the back of Thompson's jersey. That left 15 yards of open space in front of Thompson – only the end zone was going to stop Thompson from running.
Go score the touchdown, right?
Again, Thompson's run was the first play after the two-minute warning and there was exactly 1:53 remaining after he did indeed score the go-ahead touchdown. However, Washington only trailed by one point before Thompson's run, and Philadelphia had just one timeout. Conceivably, Thompson could have went to the ground before reaching the end zone and Washington could run out the clock before setting up a game-winning chip shot field goal for Dustin Hopkins. That's a lot to think about when put into writing, much less while sprinting towards a sure touchdown.
"Actually, I didn't – I probably should've thought about it," Thompson said after the game. "When we talked before the play, it was just to stay inbounds. We didn't think we were going to get such a great look. Maybe if I could take it back I would've just fallen down at the one-yard line, run out the time and let Dustin kick the field goal to win."
With the ample time available to them, the Eagles marched down the field needing a touchdown, reaching the Redskins 14-yard line before Ryan Kerrigan stripped Carson Wentz of the football with Trent Murphy recovering the fumble to seal Washington's seventh win of the season.
"Had [Thompson] taken a knee, we could have possibly ran (the clock) down and kicked a field goal," Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said. "But there's no guarantee on those field goals. We learned the hard way in London. I think I was glad that he scored, but I think in hindsight, it would've been the smartest thing to do to take a knee. But it's hard to tell a back that."
Gruden's last point may be the most valid. Who doesn't want to score a touchdown and quiet the Philadelphia crowd like Thompson did with Pierre Garçon? And in the end, the Redskins defense was able to pick up a desperately needed confidence boost with the late stop.
"It's big," Thompson said. "We know for us to have a chance, we're possibly going to have to win out. So for us to get this win in Philly – they've been playing great at home here all year – it was big for us."