Run­ning game key to 2nd straight

Guice, Peter­son pro­vide 1-2 punch to top Pan­thers

Baltimore Sun - - NFL - By Les Carpenter

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.”

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