It’s not just that the Washington Redskins’ season was close to coming completely undone in the final minute of regulation Sunday against the San Diego Chargers. It was that it pretty much already had come completely undone when the officials awarded Chargers running back Danny Woodhead a go-ahead touchdown with 21 seconds left.
But just when the Redskins seemingly had surrendered a 10-point, fourth-quarter lead to drop their record to 2-6, they were given a reprieve. Woodhead’s touchdown was overturned via an instant-replay review. The Redskins’ defense stopped the San Diego offense on three plays from the 1-yard line, and the Chargers had to settle for a tying field goal.
The Redskins, given another life, won the coin toss in overtime to get possession of the ball and drove to a decisive touchdown that enabled them to beat the Chargers, 30-24, and keep alive their hopes of turning around their season.
“It’s too early to say it’s saved,” nose tackle Barry Cofield said. “I mean, we’ve got bigger goals. We’ve got big aspirations. We want to win it all. So we’ll see. Hopefully one day we’ll be able to look back on that at the Super Bowl parade and say that’s where the season turned around. But for now, it’s just a great feeling and we’ve got to carry it on into Minnesota.”
The Redskins will take a 3-5 record into Thursday night’s game in Minneapolis. They remained 11 / 2 games behind the first-place Dallas Cowboys in the NFC East thanks to Sunday’s wild sequence at the end of regulation. Linebacker Ryan Kerrigan acknowledged he was thinking at the time about the Redskins’ season being on the line.
“I’d be lying if I said you’re not thinking that. . . . I was pretty bummed out there for a couple minutes when I thought they had scored that touchdown,” Kerrigan said. “But then, man, that was the biggest relief when we held them to a field goal and then our offense just went down the field at will on them on their game-winning drive.”
Woodhead’s touchdown, with a successful extra point, would have given the Chargers a 28-24 lead. He tried to touch the pylon at the corner of the end zone with the ball as he tumbled out of bounds — which would have given him a touchdown, by rule — after catching a pass from quarterback Philip Rivers. The officials on the field signaled touchdown. But after the replay review, the officials ruled that Woodhead hadn’t touched the pylon with the ball and instead was out of bounds inside the 1-yard line.
Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan said he “didn’t think there was any question about it” that Woodhead was out of bounds before scoring.
Redskins offensive tackle Trent Williams said: “You could see that he didn’t hit the pylon with the ball. I kind of figured that it was gonna be first and goal on the 1.”
Kerrigan said he had “no idea,” but added: “I didn’t think he got in and I thought it looked like his arm hit the ground before he made contact with the pylon. I mean, I wasn’t shocked when they said it wasn’t a touchdown. But I was very relieved, definitely.”
Cofield said he believed all along the touchdown call would be reversed.
“I really did,” he said. “But I also thought that it was gonna be first and goal from the 1. So we had a lot more work to do. I definitely did not think it was a touchdown. But I was already running through the next series — the first-down, second-down, third-down snaps that we needed to get. So it was a whirlwind, for sure.”
Indeed, the work was just beginning on defense for the Redskins. Woodhead, whose catch had resulted in a first down, was stopped on a first-down run. The Chargers went to the pass and Rivers threw incomplete on second and third downs. They opted against a fourth-down gamble with seven seconds left, and place kicker Nick Novak connected on a tying field goal.
“That’s just guts,” Kerrigan said. “That’s just knowing you have to come up big. On the Woodhead run on the first down, we were gap sound, made the play. And then for the [defensive backs] to stand up like that on the next two plays is pretty cool.”
Williams credited the defense for winning the game for the Redskins with the goal-line stand.
“The odds aren’t good for you to hold them three times in a row without getting a yard,” the offensive tackle said. “And they did it. Hats off to them. They won this game for us.”
Chargers Coach Mike McCoy said his team was not second-guessing itself for its goal-line play-calling.
“We called what we called and [the plays] didn’t work,” McCoy said.
The Redskins said they weren’t particularly surprised by the second- and third-down passes by the Chargers.
“That’s what we saw on tape,” Cofield said. “Honestly, they’re a team that likes to pass it in. A lot of teams stray away from running the ball in when we bring our big guys out there.
“We’ve got a 3-4 [defensive] line, so we’ve got four, five, six 300-pounders that can go in there and stack that line of scrimmage. So we’re never surprised when people choose not to run it in on us.”
The Redskins can only hope this was a springboard to bigger and better things.
“The way we won the game,” quarterback Robert Griffin III said, “I think that can be a turning point for us.”
Brandon Parker contributed to this report.
More on the Redskins:
Game summary: Redskins 30, Chargers 24 (OT)
Boswell: This one is a win for the ages
D.C. Sports Bog: Redskins-Chargers best and worst
Photos: Scenes from FedEx Field
The Insider: Latest Redskins updates