SEATTLE — Of course the football found DeAngelo Hall. Where else could it go? If the depleted Washington Redskins were going to win a game on guts and gall, it was only appropriate that Hall be the one to end it.
The 33-year-old cornerback turned safety hadn't played a game in 14 months. Two of his past three seasons have been ruined because of injuries. Yet here he was, fresh off the physically unable to perform list and rushed into a starting role. And on the final play of the game, there was a Hail Mary pass, spiraling in his direction, and the 5-foot-10 Hall had to leap to compete with Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Tanner McEvoy, who is eight inches taller. As a pack of players fell to the ground in the end zone, so did the ball. Hall grabbed it, lifted it high into the chilly air and celebrated the darnedest thing that a Washington team low on luck but high on character has done all season.
Final score: Redskins 17, Seahawks 14.
It was a weird game and an offensive eyesore of a game. There were 19 points scored in the final 11:48 — 13 of which came in the final 94 seconds — and only 12 points the rest of the game. But on a wet, sometimes snowy afternoon at CenturyLink Field — Washington handed Seattle only its seventh loss in the past 44 regular season home games.
Of course it ended with Hall symbolizing a team fighting to do whatever it can to keep its season alive. The players won without four starting offensive linemen, without tight end Jordan Reed and without wide receiver Jamison Crowder. Because of injuries, they were able to dress just 44 players; 46 are allowed to be active on game day. And one of those players, guard Brandon Scherff, was only available for an emergency situation.
Still, Washington came here and beat an opponent riding high after making a big trade for left tackle Duane Brown. The Seahawks (5-3) thought they were ready to start making a run toward a high playoff seed. Instead, Washington (4-4) saved its season and captured a game that serves as a reward for refusing to bow to the limitations of its roster.
"In hindsight, I'm probably 5-11," said Hall, who might be closer to 5-9. "I'm not supposed to be jumping with a guy who's [6-6]. But I could tell that ball wasn't going to get knocked down, so if I didn't go get it, it was probably going to be caught. . . . It was something we'll probably put a little more time into it after we didn't play that exactly perfect."
Washington doesn't need perfect right now. It just needs effective. Or good enough. Or, actually, just a favorable scoreboard.
It was a rough game from the start. Kirk Cousins fumbled an exchange with running back Samaje Perine early in the first quarter. Less than two minutes later, he was walloped in the end zone by Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner for a safety. For the game, he was sacked six times and pressured seemingly to infinity. With 7:45 left, Washington had just 119 offensive yards.
But in a crazy finish, it gained 125 yards, 70 of which came on perhaps the most resilient touchdown drive of Cousins's career.
Before the drive, Washington had lost the lead. Seattle had gone ahead 14-10 on a 30-yard touchdown pass from Russell Wilson to Doug Baldwin. Only 1:34 remained. Seattle's defense was dominating the game.
Hall, representing a defense that had performed admirably, whispered to Cousins: "This is where you make your money at, right here."
Then Cousins went out and showed his worth.
First, he threw a 31-yard pass to Brian Quick, hanging in the pocket and releasing the throw as defensive lineman Michael Bennett nailed him. Quick made the play and absorbed his own punishing blow from safety Kam Chancellor. And on the next play, Cousins completed a 38-yard pass to Josh Doctson, who beat cornerback Shaquill Griffin, dove and hauled in the pass as he hit the turf.
Washington was one yard from the end zone. As Cousins huddled the offense and called a run play for Rob Kelley, the players remembered rallying around their belief.
"Come on, man," they told each other. "We can get it. We've got it. Come on, Let's go."
Cousins had the final word.
"We've got to get it in here," he said. "This is the last chance we have to get it in."
With 59 seconds remaining, Kelley dove into the end zone.
"I don't think it was the run that was the highlight in that game," Kelley said. "I think it was the moment in the huddle. It was like, 'We're going to do it or not.' We did it."
It was a breakthrough that Washington needed badly. Despite weeks of injury woes, the healthy — okay, relatively healthy — players have shown up, competed and acted with great professionalism. Still, the losses were starting to mount, and the threat of the season slipping away loomed. They needed something good to happen. And in the NFL, one big victory changes everything. All of a sudden, the mind shifts to the possibility that Washington can scrounge up the fight to give itself a chance to make a push at the end, when the schedule seems weaker.
Hall, ever the veteran, warned against that mentality. But it's there. If nothing else, it furthers the notion that the NFL is a week-to-week league, and tough situations don't have to snowball.
"I mean, you would like to say that," Hall said when asked if this game could turn around the season. "Probably in a storybook ending, that's how you would want things to play out. In this league, man, every game is its own kind of beast and battle you've got to try to handle."
In a rewarding performance, Cousins withstood the pressure and finished with 247 passing yards. He didn't throw a touchdown, but he made the biggest throws of the game against a Seattle defense known to be difficult on opposing quarterbacks, especially at home.
"We found a way," Cousins said. "It wasn't easy. But I was proud of the resilience, the character, the grit. I think more than anything, it's great to win, but even if we lost the game on an unfortunate thing at the end, I would have said, 'You know, the resiliency and the grit of this team is a reflection of the whole organization.' We want to have a reputation . . . you need wins like this to be able to solidify that kind of reputation."
Afterward, Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman — a fiery competitor who once screamed, "You mad, bro?" at Tom Brady in lieu of postgame pleasantries — approached Cousins. He looked at the quarterback and hugged him.
"Hey, respect," Sherman said to Cousins.
Yes, respect. So much respect.
For as difficult as this season has been, Washington is still alive. This victory, no matter how ugly, will be remembered as a beautiful representation of a team always willing to fight.
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