Haskins limped his way through 2½ quarters after being fallen on by former Redskins edge rusher Preston Smith during the second quarter. He struggled to put all of his weight on an injured right ankle. But he refused to come out of the game, and his teammates got their first glimpse of their 22-year-old rookie quarterback fighting through pain and leading with his will.
“There was no way I was coming out the game,” Haskins said. “I hurt my ankle in my last high school game of my career, and I didn’t come out. Wasn’t going to come out now. There was talk about it, but I was going to play through it. . . . I’m a competitor. I’m a warrior. That means a lot to me that they saw that I was fighting out there, but despite of what the [medical staff] said or coach asking me if I was all right, I wasn’t going out the game.”
Haskins’ mobility was severely limited after the injury, and he could barely plant his foot at times. There were moments when he could have scrambled with receivers covered, but running simply wasn’t an option.
The Redskins named Haskins the permanent starter Nov. 11 to get him experience and see what they have in him before having to make roster decisions this offseason. Two weeks ago he missed the final snap of the game while taking selfies with fans in the stands and was heavily criticized. Sunday’s loss gave him a chance to show maturity and leadership.
“That’s the leadership that we need in a quarterback,” safety Landon Collins said. “It means a lot. We look at it like: ‘We need you, man. You’ve been balling the past couple weeks, but we need you to stay on the field.’ He sucked it up. We didn’t even have to talk to him. He sucked it up and said, ‘I got y’all.’ ”
Defense shows progress in loss
The Redskins’ defense was carved up by Mitchell Trubisky and rookie Daniel Jones early in the season as the team fell to 0-5 and coach Jay Gruden was fired. That unit has made considerable strides since then and held up reasonably well against two-time MVP Aaron Rodgers on Sunday.
Rodgers finished with 195 yards and one touchdown and was sacked four times. The yardage total was his third lowest of the season. After spotting the Packers 14 first-quarter points, the Redskins held them to just six the rest of the game.
The Redskins entered the season hoping to be led by a stout defense, and that wasn’t the case early, with four of their five opponents surpassing 30 points. But the defense hasn’t allowed more than 21 points in the past three games, which translated to a pair of wins and a close game on the road against a Super Bowl contender in the Packers.
“We made a lot of strides from the early-season struggles,” Collins said. “Being able to settle down and figure out what we need to do.”
The most impressive part may have been that the unit held up despite being shorthanded. Top cornerback Quinton Dunbar injured his hamstring in the second quarter and didn’t return. The same was true of outside linebackers Ryan Kerrigan (calf) and Ryan Anderson (stinger). That’s three starters.
Jonathan Allen was fairly ticked off after the game and wasn’t interested in any moral victories, but the defense has clearly improved as the season has progressed and that’s positive sign for a young group that will be expected to lead again in 2020.
“It was frustrating at times,” Rodgers said. “ … I know what their record is, but they have a good stout front, good linebackers.”
Redskins return to leaning on Peterson
Adrian Peterson again became the focal point of the offense with Derrius Guice out with a knee injury and Haskins fighting through the ankle injury. This is nothing new for the future Hall of Famer, who continues to rack up milestones. Peterson’s second-quarter touchdown gave him eight rushing touchdowns in Lambeau Field, the most by an opposing player. Walter Payton previously held the record. His 16 touchdowns against the Packers are the second most of any opposing player, trailing Payton’s 19. He also became the sixth player in NFL history to rush for 14,000 yards.
Peterson finished with 76 yards and the touchdown on 20 carries as the team leaned on him, and it may have to do so moving forward with Guice’s status up in the air.
“That’s just the mentality that I have, I’ve been having my entire career,” Peterson said. “I want to be that guy that helps take a team to a championship if you’ve got to rely on being heavy in the run game. That would be my mind-set whether I’m splitting carries or not.”