The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Redskins rally after Dwayne Haskins leaves with an injury, only to fall to the Giants in overtime

Case Keenum led three scoring drives in the second half, only to see the Redskins lose in overtime. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

This was right after halftime, long before the frantic fourth-quarter comeback, before Washington Redskins interim coach Bill Callahan didn’t go for a potential game-winning two-point conversion with 29 seconds left in regulation, before the New York Giants won Sunday’s game, 41-35, in overtime. Redskins owner Daniel Snyder left his suite at FedEx Field and visited quarterback Dwayne Haskins.

Minutes before, Haskins had been taken off the field on a cart, his left ankle aching and the stadium silent with the memories of Redskins quarterbacks past leaving the field much the same way. But now, in an examination room beneath the stands, Haskins was getting the good news that his injury was only a sprain, and he wanted to play. He lobbied team surgeon Robin West to let him go back in.

West later released a statement saying she did not “clear him to return to game action,” but it was the owner’s words that stuck with Haskins the most.

“You do what Dan says if you want to stay around here,” Haskins said later, sitting inside his locker stall, a big gray plastic walking boot wrapped around his foot.

He didn’t smile as he said this.

Hours later, Haskins took to Twitter to clarify his thoughts.

“Dr. West advised me that I was done for this game,” Haskins tweeted. “Dan Snyder who was in the locker room supporting me, told me I’ve got to listen to the Doctor. Looking forward to getting back healthy for Skins Nation.”

Perspective: The Redskins have found the perfect formula: Show some fight but lose anyway.

His injury came on the first play of the second half, when he was sacked by the Giants’ Markus Golden and Lorenzo Carter, ending a start in which he had completed 12 of 15 passes for 133 yards and two touchdowns. He later surmised it was his best game of his rookie season. And while his progress has been dramatic, “light-years” of improvement, Callahan later said, Sunday’s loss left the Redskins with a 3-12 record and very much alive for the second pick in April’s NFL draft — able to draft a pass rusher such as Ohio State’s Chase Young . . . or a quarterback such as the one Haskins beat out at Ohio State, LSU’s Joe Burrow.

But the quarter and a half plus overtime that Haskins watched from the sideline were as entertaining as any Washington game in two years.

“You have no inhibitions,” his replacement, Case Keenum, said about that moment he knew he was coming into the game. “You can just come in and sling it.”

Which is what Keenum did. Scrambling around as if he were Brett Favre drawing up plays in the dirt, he led the Redskins to three second-half touchdowns, bringing them back from down 28-14 to 35-34 with 29 seconds left.

It was a harrowing series of drives. The first featured a 13-yard pass from wide receiver Kelvin Harmon to running back Chris Thompson and ended with a Keenum pass to Steven Sims Jr. for the score. The second came after linebacker Nate Orchard blocked a punt on the New York 17 and ended in two plays with Adrian Peterson diving over a pile and into the end zone. The third started on the Washington 1 and had three key Keenum completions on third down. And just when it looked as if the Redskins had fallen short when Keenum missed Sims in the end zone on fourth down with 41 seconds left, a pass interference penalty gave the Redskins the ball on the New York 1.

On the next play, Keenum scrambled to his right toward the end zone and fumbled as he was tackled. Rookie guard Wes Martin landed on the ball, though Keenum was credited with the touchdown after replay upheld the ruling he broke the plane, leaving Callahan with a decision: kick the extra point and probably go to overtime or go for two and a possible win? In Callahan’s first game coaching the team in October, the Miami Dolphins’ Brian Flores went for two in a similar situation, giving Washington the victory when the two-point conversion attempt failed.

Callahan picked the safe play: the extra point.

“I felt good that we would go into overtime and just thought it was the right decision,” he said after the game. “Guys were playing hard, and I thought our defense had an opportunity to make a play in the overtime. Unfortunately, we didn’t get that type of stop.”

Bill Callahan on decision not to go for two: ‘Our defense had an opportunity to make a play’

Instead, New York went 11 plays, rumbling through the Redskins’ defense to score the winning touchdown with 4:19 left when rookie quarterback Daniel Jones — with whom Haskins will forever be compared — hit tight end Kaden Smith from three yards out.

Later, Keenum wondered whether Callahan would have let him try for a two-point conversion had he not lost the ball on the touchdown near the end of regulation.

In the end, it didn’t matter. The Redskins had lost again. Wearily they slumped off the field, with Haskins hobbling into the locker room in his socks, certain they would finish last in the NFC East and that the best they can be is 4-12. They allowed Jones to throw for 352 yards and five touchdowns, and they let running back Saquon Barkley run for 189 yards and a touchdown. They showed they are a team that has a lot of needs and could use the second pick next spring.

But that was for another day. They dodged disaster, with Haskins only spraining his ankle. As the quarterback lingered in his locker, he thought past Snyder and West’s edict and ahead to next week’s final game in Dallas. Will he play, he was asked.

“That’s the plan,” he replied.

Then he stood up and limped out of the locker room and toward the uncertain future that lies ahead for a team that keeps coming close only to tumble to the NFL’s bottom.

Read more on the Washington Redskins:

Three takeaways from the Redskins’ 41-35 loss to the Giants

D.C. bid for RFK site as new home for Redskins stadium dealt blow in federal spending bill

For some Redskins players, the NFL season can complicate life as a dad

Projected the 2020 NFL draft order and where the Redskins are likely to pick