“You want to sell the pass a little bit,” said Cousins, who delayed the draw just enough for the Ravens to drop back in coverage. “I don’t run as fast as Robert, so I had to dive across the goal line. And I needed [every] block.”
In overtime, the Redskins completed a game when every playoff omen seemed to fall in place. Coach Mike Shanahan benched normal kick and punt returner Brandon Banks, who’s had a poor season, letting Niles Paul return kickoffs and Richard Crawford return punts.
This is how you know when a coach is running hot — or lucky. The Redskins’ final 85-yard game-tying drive might never have happened. Paul fumbled a kickoff and the Ravens appeared to have recovered at the Washington 15-yard line — probably a killing blow with only 4:47 left to play and an eight-point lead. But the recovery was reversed — a hairsbreadth call — and Griffin could start the final drive.
In overtime, the Ravens, who stormed up and down the field in the first half, taking a 21-14 lead on three Joe Flacco touchdown passes, were forced to punt. As has been his reputation for five years in Baltimore, Flacco did just enough to give his foes a chance, throwing an unnecessary interception when pressured in the pocket and fumbling on a strip-sack. When he couldn’t ignite an overtime drive, Baltimore had to punt.
Shanahan had the perfect view as they player he’d tabbed — Crawford — sped up the left sideline, cut back to the middle and returned the punt 64 yards to the Ravens 24-yard line. “It was kind of like the Red Sea [parting]. I saw where I had to go and I just ran that way,” said Crawford. “I ran out of gas. When I hit midfield, I was dead tired. I don’t know what happened. I never get tired. They use to call me the Energizer Bunny at practice.”
When you get tackled by the other team’s punter — but you win anyway — you get to make mystery excuses about running out of energy for no reason. Even Shanahan agitated Crawford about getting manhandled in the open field — after it was too late for Baltimore — by a punter.
Place kicker Kai Forbath, who’s now begun his Redskin career with a dazzling 14-for-14 streak on field goals, finished the day with what for him was the easiest part of a three-field goal day — a 34-yarder. His earlier kicks of 48 and 49 yards, without which no overtime would ever have been played, were the real reason he, along with Crawford, received a game ball. “That doesn’t happen to a kicker very often,” Forbath said. “It’s a huge honor.” Redskin fans, who have watched so much sub-NFL standard kicking for years, may be the ones who feel honored. Or at least relieved.
The true final score of this game will not really be known until it’s determined how quickly Griffin can return after the lick he took. “They kept pressing” on the knee,Griffin said of the doctors. “They’d ask me, ‘Does that hurt?’ I’d say, ‘No.’ Then they’d say, ‘Does that hurt?’
“YES! For the 14th time, that hurts!”
Griffin, like the Redskins, left hobbling but happy. “Feeling pretty good,” he said of the knee. “I’ve got the positive vibes.”
For now, that’s how all the Redskins feel — about their four straight wins, their perfectly plausible playoff chances and, fingers crossed, their quarterback, too.
For Thomas Boswell’s previous columns go to washingtonpost.com/