On a short week, the Washington Redskins didn’t practice leading up to their Thanksgiving home game against the New York Giants. On at least on one side of the ball, it showed.
The Redskins’ offense had to adjust on the fly with four starters and a backup-turned-starter. Facing one of the better defensive lines in the game, Washington’s offense struggled to find a rhythm but mustered up just enough in the 20-10 victory at FedEx Field.
With just three days to prepare following a brutal overtime loss to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, the Redskins participated in closed walk-throughs during the week while placing running back Chris Thompson, center Spencer Long and left guard Shawn Lauvao on injured reserve. Their backup center, rookie Chase Roullier, had hand surgery following the Saints game. Left tackle Trent Williams, who has been dealing with a lingering knee injury, did not dress with the quick turnaround.
The Redskins were left to piece together completely different offensive line that included third-string center Tony Bergstrom, who signed last month, left guard Arie Kouandjio, who was signed off the Ravens practice squad last month, and left tackle Ty Nsekhe, who is still recovering from a core muscle injury he suffered in Week 3.
Nsekhe, Kouandjio and Bergstrom had never played together before. They had to develop that chemistry on the fly, while right tackle Morgan Moses fought through a knee injury he suffered during the game.
“The preparation, we had to cram in a lot of hours of film in a short time,” Kouandjio said.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins was sacked six times as the Giants defensive line significantly impacted the timing of Washington’s pass offense. Jason Pierre Paul, Olivier Vernon and Damon Harrison recorded four of New York’s six sacks in the game. Cousins finished with 242 passing yards, his lowest total since Week 4 against the Kansas City Chiefs, on 19 of 31 passing with two touchdowns and an interception returned for a touchdown.
“On a short week, it is very challenging and there were several plays that I would chalk up to the fact that they were sloppy because it was a short week,” Cousins said. “We just didn’t have the reps that we needed to on these plays and didn’t have the feel for them that we would normally have going into a game and some of those mistakes happen on a Wednesday and Thursday and don’t happen on a Sunday, but on a short week you saw them happen on a Thursday night and I’m just glad we found a way to win.”
With its defense carrying the team throughout the game, Washington went with a conservative game plan to escape with a win. It was able to establish the run during the second half as rookie running back Samaje Perine gained 97 of his 100 rushing yards in the final two quarters. His effectiveness on the ground opened up opportunities in the pass game as Cousins found Jamison Crowder and Josh Doctson for two second half touchdowns.
“We needed to stick with [the run],” Coach Jay Gruden said. “We couldn’t throw the ball every down against these guys. They gave you multiple fronts. They’ve got Pierre-Paul, Olivier Vernon — they’ve got a good pass-rush, a good blitz scheme. We had to get the running game going. We were kind of shuffling some linemen with Morgan coming out. [Tyler] Catalina had to play right tackle and we had a new center, so we had to get the running game going. We had some big hits and Samaje ran the ball outstanding today. The line and tight ends blocked very well, so it was a big help for us.”
As the Redskins look ahead offensively, they will get a full week to prepare for their road trip to Dallas to face the Cowboys in another Thursday night matchup. This time, there will be three practices to simulate a normal workweek for the offense as it seeks to find ways to be productive with a reconstructive offensive line.
Byron Marshall, signed just last week off the Eagles practice squad, will also receive more time adjusting to his new team and role. He was thrusted into a significant role in his second game with the Redskins to replace Thompson and finished with 30 total yards on four carries and a reception.
“I’ve said to myself many of times in game plans, in practices, and in games, ‘Boy, if we lost Chris Thompson, that would be really, really hard,’” Cousins said. “To lose him and to have a short week just felt extremely difficult. I was very impressed with Byron Marshall — the way he has picked up the system this quickly. I thought he handled it, he was very composed.”
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