The moment after Darrel Young came crashing down into the end-zone turf, sending the Washington Redskins to an emotional 30-24 overtime victory against San Diego on Sunday at FedEx Field, he hurriedly got up and made the short run toward the stands. With the frenzied fans bracing for a leap and his teammates jubilantly chasing him, it was anybody’s guess as to what the 248-pound fullback would do to celebrate.
But even though it had been nearly two years since Young last ran for a score and even longer since he had put together a three-touchdown performance like Sunday’s, the fourth-year pro simply handed the ball to a fan and turned his back toward the sideline as if he’d done it all before.
Bobby Turner, the Redskins’ running backs coach, “doesn’t like that,” Young said. “Remember that he’s old school, man. [He wants you] to just give the ball to a fan and walk back to the sideline. I’m good. I want to keep my job.”
Young saw his duties expand Sunday, carrying the ball a career-high five times for 12 yards and scoring three times on third-and-one situations. Alfred Morris found relatively similar success on the ground, recording season highs of 25 carries on 121 yards.
On Washington’s game-winning drive, the Redskins handed the ball to Morris six times before calling on Young to rush four yards for the decisive touchdown. The play-calling marked a stark contrast from last week’s 45-21 loss in Denver, when Morris tallied just five carries after the Redskins had built a 21-7 third-quarter lead. The Redskins are 10-1 when Morris records 20 or more rushing attempts.
“Third downs have been a problem for us. When we started going to that run last year, third down was actually on our side,” Young said. “And for them to give me the ball on third down, that’s a lot of trust and I appreciate the coaches just allowing me to be in that situation.”
Young said that the push to incorporate him into the offense more has been weeks in the making. The plan culminated Sunday with Coach Mike Shanahan telling Young that on the team’s first trip to the red zone, he would call his fullback’s number.
That moment came at the end of the third quarter with the Redskins on the San Diego 8-yard line. After running off tackle to the left for three yards, Washington went back to Young two plays later for a one-yard push into the end zone.
Though Washington’s 40 rushing attempts were well above its season average of nearly 28 per game, the Chargers entered Sunday’s game knowing that they could see a heavy dose of the running game.
“With the Redskins, you’ve got to be prepared for everything,” Chargers defensive lineman Sean Lissemore said. “They’re just a multidimensional offense. They can do everything.”
What Washington hadn’t been able to do consistently prior to Sunday’s contest was convert on third downs. Behind Young’s three third-down touchdowns, however, the Redskins found success on 12 of their 17 third-down attempts, their highest conversion rate since a 2005 win against Seattle.
Whether that means more carries for Young in the future is unclear, but he is prepared to contribute in any way he can.
“It’s just giving [defenses] something else to think about and doing something that we’re good at,” Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III said about the message their ground success sends to opponents. “We trust [Young] with the ball. He’s always had a pretty good rushing average for us. Three touchdowns, it’s probably one yard per carry, but hey, he doesn’t really care about that as long as he’s helping us win.”