With just three wins heading into the bye week in late October, no one could have predicted that, with just two games left in the season, the Washington Redskins would be just one win away from clinching the division. This would be their first playoff appearance since 2012.
But after a pair of wins (the first this season), the Redskins have found themselves in that improbable spot.
“We had a lot on our hands. Everybody said we couldn’t win back-to-back games,” said wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who had a game long 77-yard touchdown on Sunday. “So this was the first time in a long time we were able to get accomplished what we wanted to get accomplished.”
Washington pulled ahead in the division when both the Eagles (6-8) and Giants (6-8) lost on Sunday. The Redskins hosted the Buffalo Bills and jumped ahead early, shutting them out 21-0 in the first half. But it wasn’t a runaway for Washington, who allowed Buffalo to score 17 points in the third quarter.
Leading 28-17 the Skins scored early in the first quarter to extend their lead to 18. Buffalo was able to get into the end zone for a TD and successful two point conversion before the end of the game, but by then it was too late. With the loss, the Bills (6-6) missed their shot at a playoff berth for the 16th year in a row. It is the longest active drought in the NFL.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins had a stellar outing, going 22-of-28 for 319 yards and no interceptions. It was the Washington quarterback’s sixth 300-yard passing game of the season–a franchise record. Cousins’ improved performance since the bye has quieted the quarterback controversy the team endured earlier in the season. 2012 offensive rookie of the year Robert Griffin III has been inactive all season, after losing his starting position to Cousins in August.
“He’s definitely gotten better,” Trent Williams said. “We had faith in him the whole time. But he continues to grow and he’s playing lights out.”
The Redskins will play their biggest game of the year on Saturday against the Eagles. With a victory, Washington (7-7) will clinch the NFC East title and their first playoff berth in three years. If they lose, it opens the door for the Eagles or Giants to win in the final game of the season.
But for now, the Redskins’ chances look good. Even if they fall short this weekend, they will still have a shot to win in the final week.
“To have a chance and have your team in a position to possibly win the division this late,” coach John Gruden said Monday, “is obviously what you coach for — these moments and these games.”
When the 2016 Pro Bowl roster was announced on Tuesday, Redskins fans saw a familiar name: Trent Williams. The star offensive tackle and six-year league veteran received his fourth consecutive Pro Bowl selection this year, making it obvious that Williams’ performance has not gone unnoticed.
“I’m extremely honored,” Williams said in a team statement. “To me, this is a huge award to receive more so, because it reflects on how your peers view you on and off the field. I’m extremely excited to have this award for the fourth time, and it couldn’t have come at a better time while we’re in the midst of our playoff hunt.”
In addition to Williams, teammates Jordan Reed (tight end) and Ryan Kerrigan (outsider linebacker) were selected as alternates. This means that if the selected players at their positions withdraw due to a Super Bowl appearance or injury, they will be able to play in their spot.
The Pro Bowl is played every year the week before the Super Bowl, and players are selected based on a tabulation of league-wide coach, player and fan votes.