Running game key to 2nd straight
Guice, Peterson provide 1-2 punch to top Panthers
CHARLOTTE — All last week, Randy Jordan, the Washington Redskins’ running backs coach, had been telling the team’s backs about how the Carolina Panthers’ defense had struggled against the run. As Sunday’s game grew closer, the talks turned into a plea.
“I need you to take this game over,” running Chris Thompson says Jordan told them in their meetings.
And then they did. The highlights of Washington’s third win of the year — a 29-21 victory over the stumbling Panthers — will probably feature the final moments, when Washington nearly squandered a two-touchdown lead with 1:51 remaining by allowing a touchdown, botching an onside kick recovery and then holding on by stopping the Panthers four times from inside the 5-yard line.
But the game was won in a way the Redskins had hoped to play all year, with their backs bursting through the line and storming downfield.
Sunday was Derrius Guice’s breakout game, after knee injuries had robbed him of much of his career’s first two seasons, rushing for 129 yards and two touchdowns. But Sunday was about Adrian Peterson, too. He ran for another 99 yards, and his fourth quarter touchdown ultimately clinched the game.
“It was really a group effort through the running game, no doubt about it,” Callahan said in his postgame news conference.
It had taken Callahan a long time to leave the locker room and come to that news conference, so much that several players had already left the locker room when he finally made the short walk down the hall to the Bank of America Stadium’s interview room. But there had been so much to discuss: like 362 yards of total offense, like holding Carolina’s explosive running back Christian McCaffrey to 102 total yards, like rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins coming up big with several key completions.
Oh, and the fact that with two straight wins, Washington is the hottest team in an otherwise frozen NFC East, has moved past the New York Giants into third place and is just two games behind second place Philadelphia and three behind the division-leading Dallas Cowboys — with all three of those teams left on the schedule.
But that’s for another day. Sunday was about a running game that finally took off and a defense that held on for dear life just when it looked like everything was about to fall apart.
Guice was the one who brought the Redskins back to life Sunday, after they had fallen down 14-0. He took a handoff late in the first quarter with Washington on its own 25, cut right and rocketed downfield for 60 yards — a play that led to a field goal and the slow revival of Washington’s offense.
After that it was a mix of Guice and Peterson for the rest of the day, the 22-year-old second round draft pick from last year switching off with the 34-year-old future Hall of Famer who is on the team only because of Guice’s torn ACL suffered in the summer of 2018. Back and forth they went, blowing through holes and shaking through tacklers as the Redskins scored 29 straight points on four field goals and Guice and Peterson’s touchdowns in the third and fourth quarters.
“We finally got it,” guard Ereck Flowers said of Callahan’s long-promised running dominance. “We’ve been working hard and finally everything came together.”
Across the locker room, Peterson smiled.
“It seems like we found the right recipe,” he said.
A moment later, Guice came from the shower and prepared to get dressed. He beamed.
A group of reporters gathered around him. He pulled on a pair of undershorts and a gold and black silk dress shirt. A Redskins official asked him to put on pants. Guice laughed. The pants remained in a pile on the bottom of his locker. He had waited long time for this day.
“I’ve always had confidence, just bad luck and couldn’t really show it,” Guice said. “It’s always been there, though.
“They finally got to see the twoheaded monster,” he added, referring to the tandem of him and Peterson. “These are the days I have been waiting on since they called him when I tore my ACL.”