“Our passing stats stink,” Haslett said. “They’re not very good, because you give up an 85-yarder in a game — 50, 50, 60, 60 [yards in one play]. All you got to do is give up one a game, and it just throws everything out of whack. And that’s what we have to eliminate — or we have eliminated, and we’ve done a pretty good job of that.”
To accomplish that, individual players have performed better. The coaching staff challenged Hall, a former Pro Bowler who became the object of fans’ scorn over the first part of the season, to take Dallas wide receiver Dez Bryant, who was coming off a nine-catch, 224-yard performance the week before.
The Washington Post’s Matt Rennie, Dan Steinberg and Jonathan Forsythe argue whether the Redskins will have more problems defending the Seattle Seahawks’ rushing game or their passing attack in this Sunday’s playoff game at FedEx Field.
“Dez is hot,” the coaches said. “He’s on fire. You need to put the fire out. You need to take him one-on-one.”
So Hall did, limiting Bryant to four catches for 71 yards and holding him without a touchdown for the first time in seven games.
“He was really focused. He was into it,” Coach Mike Shanahan said. “He knew it was a playoff atmosphere. He knew he had to play his best game against an excellent receiver who was playing at a very high level the last four or five games, and it was a great challenge to him.”
Now, the Redskins may be getting reinforcements at the most important time. Veteran cornerback Cedric Griffin returned to practice this week after serving a four-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Though Shanahan and Haslett were intentionally vague about how much they might use Griffin against Seattle, the rest of the secondary clearly expects him back.
“We’ve been able to go out there and still get it done without having him out there,” Hall said. “To have him out there just adds another weapon to the arsenal. . . . We’re able to do a little bit more things, some different things that we didn’t get a chance to actually fine-tune.”
Veteran safety Reed Doughty contributed a stellar play in the run game against Dallas, blowing through a blocker and bowling over the running back in the same play. That helped lessen the impact of the loss of DeJon Gomes, an occasional starter who missed the Cowboys game with a knee injury.
“We have confidence now,” Williams said.
They now have performances to justify that confidence, and Cruz’s play, which at one point threatened to define the season, is now but a blip on their radar, and a distant one at that.