Easy late-sea­son sched­ule gives Wash­ing­ton hope

In­juries, Saints could quash those as­pi­ra­tions

The Star Democrat - - SPORTS -

(WPNS) — There’s a silver lin­ing in the fi­nal stretch of the Wash­ing­ton Red­skins’ sea­son, and it takes the form of a string of games — five of their fi­nal six — against teams that cur­rently have los­ing records.

But for that late-sea­son stretch to have an ap­pre­cia­ble pay­out, the Red­skins must reach Week 12, when they host the founder­ing New York Giants (1-8) on Thanks­giv­ing night with a vi­able chance at an NFC wild­card spot.

With that as a goal, Coach Jay Gru­den’s Red­skins hurt them­selves badly with Sun­day’s 38-30 loss to the Min­nesota Vik­ings, drop­ping to 4-5 af­ter squan­der­ing an early lead on too many of­fen­sive mis­cues and a lack of in­ten­sity on de­fense.

If it’s true the Red­skins sim­ply didn’t match the Vik­ings’ venom at FedEx Field, as cor­ner­back Bashaud Bree­land and D.J. Swearinger sug­gested in the af­ter­math, Gru­den said Mon­day the fault was his.

“For the most part, play­ers have to get ready to play, and I have to do a bet­ter job of get­ting them ready to play,” Gru­den said. “If they’re not ready, then that’s on me.”

Wash­ing­ton’s de­fense al­lowed Min­nesota, led by backup quar­ter­back Case Keenum, to con­vert 8 of 12 third downs (67 per­cent), roll up 406 yards and score 38 points.

“They kind of took the mo­men­tum right back from us af­ter we scored,” Bree­land said in a somber locker room af­ter­ward.

“They came back and punched us right back in the mouth. It showed it was go­ing to be a game it wasn’t go­ing to be no blowout.”

As for the points left un­scored on an af­ter­noon in which quar­ter­back Kirk Cousins marched the Red­skins up and down the field for 394 to­tal yards and a sea­son-high 30 points, Gru­den of­fered no con­crete so­lu­tion.

Wide re­ceiver Josh Doct­son’s un­prompted stum­ble in the end zone that spoiled a sure­fire touch­down was just “a turf mon­ster,” Gru­den said, that could only be chalked up to bad luck. And an un­char­ac­ter­is­tic drop by wide re­ceiver Jami­son Crow­der on an­other would-be touch­down was just that: Un­char­ac­ter­is­tic.

“Just got to get back to the draw­ing board here (at) 4-5 and try to make sure we con­tinue to com­pli­ment on the good they’re do­ing, coach them on the things we need to do bet­ter and go from there,” Gru­den said. “But there were some great plays to be had in that game, some we made and some we un­for­tu­nately didn’t make.”

Mean­while, the bad news con­tin­ued Mon­day for the in­jury-plagued

Red­skins. MRIs con­firmed run­ning back Rob Kel­ley suf­fered a high an­kle sprain as well as a sprained me­dial col­lat­eral lig­a­ment (MCL) in his knee, and mid­dle line­backer Will Comp­ton, who had only re­cently re­claimed a start­ing role af­ter Ma­son Foster was placed on in­jured re­serve, suf­fered a Lis­franc foot in­jury.

Both will miss “a few weeks,” Gru­den con­firmed, and could fin­ish the sea­son on in­jured re­serve. The im­me­di­ate con­cern is sim­ply find­ing an­other run­ning back to help shoul­der the load. The Red­skins have just three backs on their ros­ter — Kel­ley, rookie Sa­maje Per­ine and third-down spe­cial­ist Chris Thomp­son — af­ter waiv­ing Mack Brown on Oct. 28 (the day be­fore their Week 8 meet­ing with Dal­las) to make room for Arie Kouand­jio amid the raft of in­juries to the start­ing of­fen­sive line. Brown has since been claimed off waivers by the Vik­ings.

The stocky, pow­er­fully built Per­ine ( 5- foot- 11, 236 pounds) will as­sume a greater role, ac­cord­ing to Gru­den. The coach said he hopes with more car­ries, the rookie will find the phys­i­cal­ity he showed en route to be­com­ing Oklahoma’s all- time rush­ing leader ( 4,122 yards in three sea­sons) — the ma­jor rea­son the Red­skins chose him in the fourth round of the most re­cent NFL draft.

Per­ine rushed for a team- high 35 yards Sun­day against the Vik­ings’ third- ranked run de­fense, step­ping in af­ter Kel­ley ( four car­ries, 10 yards) was in­jured late in the first quar­ter.

Gru­den said the team’s front of­fice has a rank- or­dered list of four of five run­ning backs — some on ri­vals’ prac­tice squads, oth­ers who are free agents — and would be work­ing out can­di­dates.

Ryan Grant, a fa­vorite of Gru­den’s, has joined fel­low wide re­ceiver Brian Quick and tight end Niles Paul on the con­cus­sion pro­to­col. And DeAn­gelo Hall suf­fered a bone bruise in his knee, a po­ten­tial set­back for the team’s al­ready thin ranks at safety.

So once again, the Red­skins will be short on starters when play­ers re­turn to the prac­tice field Wed­nes­day to pre­pare for Sun­day’s game at 7-2 New Or­leans, their third con­sec­u­tive game against an NFC di­vi­sion leader.

The Saints are play­ing their best foot­ball of the sea­son, over­com­ing an 0-2 start to string to­gether seven con­sec­u­tive vic­to­ries, in­clud­ing Sun­day’s 47-10 rout at Buf­falo. While quar­ter­back Drew Brees is a peren­nial threat, the Saints cur­rently boast the NFL’s third-ranked rush­ing at­tack (142.2 yards per game), while their de­fense is al­low­ing just 18.3 points per game (fifth-fewest).

TNS PHOTO

Wash­ing­ton’s D.J. Swearinger (36) — here against Kansas City — and Bashaud Bree­land said the Red­skins didn’t match Min­nesota’s venom on Sun­day.

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