But as impressive as the two were — the Redskins’ 248 rushing yards were their most in a game since 2012 — several other factors contributed to the banner game on the ground, interim coach Bill Callahan said Monday.
“It was a function of being on the same page,” he said. “I thought the management of the run game is another aspect of [Dwayne Haskins’s] quarterbacking, putting the call in the right leverage or the right position, whether to leave it on or leave it off, or change it or get to a pass.”
The coach also had praise for the offensive line, which may have had its best game of the year, particularly in the run game — and that was with starting right tackle Morgan Moses missing the fourth quarter with a back injury. Geron Christian Sr. filled in for the offense’s two strongest drives of the day, when Guice and Peterson scored fourth-quarter touchdowns. Guice gave the ball to guard Ereck Flowers for a big-man spike after his second score.
Callahan credited the line for being able to handle a variety of pressures and fronts, some of which were unfamiliar. The Panthers tried to play games with linebackers Luke Kuechly and Shaq Thompson and safety Eric Reid, but the linemen adjusted well, earning the praise of their former position coach.
The Redskins could have easily gotten away from the running game after falling behind 14-0, but the coaching staff chose to stick with it rather than try to play catch-up through the air.
“We’ve been down before, and we’ve been patient and come back,” Callahan said. “When you’re down 14, you can easily panic and all of a sudden start shifting gears too quickly and too fast. I thought [offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell] did a great job just staying patient and trusting the running game.”
Peterson also gave credit to the wide receivers for their blocking on the edge. He said they implored him to trust that they would hold their blocks downfield.
For a team that has struggled to get everybody to do their jobs on each play throughout the season, the ground game was truly a group effort Sunday. The Guice-Peterson combo had more room to operate than in previous games, and it resulted from the work of several players and coaches on offense.
The fact that Guice and Peterson put up big numbers also puts off the question, at least for a week, of which of the team’s running backs should take the lead role. Peterson has remained a prominent part of Washington’s game plan even after Guice returned from the torn meniscus he suffered during the season opener — a game that Guice started while Peterson was a healthy scratch.
Instead of fielding calls for Guice to take over Peterson’s workload — which would mirror the team’s decisions to play younger players at other positions during this challenging season — Callahan was able to answer questions this week about how Peterson and Guice complement each other.
“They’re both consistent, durable, tough, powerful-type runners but elusive enough where they can make people miss and also capable of springing off explosive runs,” said Callahan, who has noted that the team will continue to rotate its backs. “They both have those traits, and they’re both different in their own ways. I would never want to compare them to each other — that wouldn’t be fair — but they bring a different dimension to our team.”