SEATTLE — Vernon Davis wasn't surprised. Neither was Josh Norman, nor Quinton Dunbar. Even if the Redskins have rarely thrown Josh Doctson a deep ball in a game, they know he's capable of making a game-changing catch.
It didn't happen in Week 4, when Doctson dropped what would have been the game-winning touchdown against the Kansas City Chiefs — a play, and a moment, that Norman said would've made Doctson "immortal" had he made it. But five weeks later, Doctson received a shot at redemption.
The Redskins would not have walked out of CenturyLink Field with a 17-14 victory over the Seattle Seahawks if not for their 2016 first-round pick. Doctson's 38-yard reception with 62 seconds remaining set up the game-winning touchdown run by Rob Kelley on the ensuing play, and a stunning upset on the road.
"That's a first-round guy, and that's a first-round catch," Norman said.
Norman said Doctson told people on the sideline that he would make a play on the drive. Facing first and 10 at the Seattle 39-yard line with 1:24 left, Doctson lined up in single coverage on the left of a four-wide set. Rookie cornerback Shaquill Griffin lined up across from Doctson, a matchup Washington's offense liked but had not exploited much in the game because of the team's struggles in pass protection. Quarterback Kirk Cousins was sacked six times as the Redskins were without four of their five starting offensive linemen.
Cousins dropped back, saw Doctson with a step on Griffin and slung it his way. The pass was just slightly overthrown, but Doctson dived at the 10-yard line to make a play on the ball. His body slammed to the ground around the 5 and slid down just shy of the goal line. Through it all, the ball remained in his hands.
"It just seems like him and them deep balls, they're like a married couple," Norman said. "It seems that he's always there for that. He's done it in practice, so it's nothing surprising to me that he came back. The Lord granted him with a second chance, a second opportunity. He saw that thing in the air, and it looked like an angel pushed him forward a little bit. That man [sped] up. He's got another gear to him."
It was just one of three catches for Doctson, who finished with 59 receiving yards and continues to build a rapport with Cousins this season.
Before the winning drive, Washington trailed 14-10 after Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin's 30-yard touchdown reception with 1:34 left in the game. The Redskins' offense had scored only a field goal in the second half to that point and needed to march 70 yards down the field to avert a third consecutive loss.
Cousins made a great throw under pressure to Brian Quick for 31 yards on the previous play to get the Redskins into Seahawks' territory. The pass gave Washington life and an opportunity on first down to take a shot.
"I can see once the ball was in the air, and he tracked it, you can tell when he's going to go get it," Redskins Coach Jay Gruden said. "If he has a good beat on it, and he's going to time it, he's going to go get it. Giving him those opportunities and seeing him make those plays is just going to add to the confidence level, not just only to Josh — which he's got plenty of confidence — but to Kirk throwing it to him. It's a win-win situation, obviously, and won us a big game today."
As Doctson's role expands and as Cousins's confidence grows in the second-year wideout, the hope in Washington is that Doctson will make these plays seem routine over time.
Taken with the 22nd overall pick, Doctson has been limited to just nine NFL games because of injuries. He has 11 catches on the season for 189 yards, averaging 17.2 yards per reception, and three touchdowns.
In small doses, the 24-year-old has displayed flashes of his big-play potential. But none bigger than this one.
"That's what they brought him here for," Davis said. "He can do that every game. It's all about giving him the opportunity. So when he came through, I wasn't surprised. I was like, 'Aye, it's Doctson. That's what he do.' "
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