ROCKVILLE – In the NFL’s battle of winless teams, it was the Washington Redskins that somehow managed not to lose.
Led by a resurgent Adrian Peterson, who rushed for 118 yards on 23 carries, the Redskins (1-5) defeated the Miami Dolphins (0-5) 17-16 on Oct. 13 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens.
Washington, which withstood a last-minute comeback attempt by the Dolphins, earned its first win of the season. For interim Head Coach Bill Callahan, Sunday’s win was a validation of a new culture and gameplay he instilled since taking control this week.
“You know, everybody pulls out the stops, and I think that was indicative of the game and it was a little bit wild all the way to the last minute,” Callahan said.
After taking over for Jay Gruden, who the Redskins fired after last week’s loss against the New England Patriots, Callahan said he wanted to run the ball more.
The run-first strategy worked as the running game carried Washington with 33 total rush attempts for 145 yards rushing. Peterson had his best game of the season with season highs in both carries and yards.
While the Redskins held onto an early lead, they almost relinquished it at the end of the game.
Coming into the game, Miami scored just 6.6 points per game and allowed 33.3 points per game, the worst in the NFL.
The 16 points the Dolphins scored against Washington were the most they have scored against any team all season, which is despite the Redskins defense sacking Dolphins quarterback Josh Rosen five times, including two by defensive end Jonathan Allen.
Rosen went 15 for 25 for 85 yards and two interceptions. At the beginning of the fourth quarter, Dolphins Head Coach Brian Flores benched Rosen and replaced him with veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Down 17-3 in the fourth quarter, Fitzpatrick immediately led Miami on a nine-play, 55-yard touchdown drive which ended with a one-yard run by Kalen Ballage for the score.
With just under two minutes left in the game, Fitzpatrick began another long scoring drive ending with an 11-yard touchdown pass to DeVante Parker, giving Miami a chance to tie the game with just six seconds left.
However, instead of kicking an extra point to tie the game, Flores decided to go for a two-point conversion, which failed when running back Kenyan Drake dropped a Fitzpatrick pass.
“We talked about it, we felt good about the play, (it was) something we worked on all week,” Flores said. “We felt that we had an opportunity to win the game, and that was the thought process.”
Callahan, who served as the team’s assistant head coach under Gruden, made some changes to the team’s practice routine before the game. Most notably, Callahan shut off music for a portion of practice, made players do wind-sprints and brought referees to practice as a way to cut down on penalties.
“Our theme here is that our practice preparation really just shows up in-game day reality, so those clips that we take from practice carry over,” Callahan said.
After being inactive last week due to a foot injury, Case Keenum was back as the team’s starting quarterback, going 13 for 25, throwing for 166 yards and two touchdowns.
Wide receiver Terry McLaurin continued his break out rookie season with four catches for 100 yards and two touchdowns. McLaurin opened up the scoring in the game, with a 25-yard touchdown reception. In the third quarter, Keenum and McLaurin would connect again, this time on a 33-yard touchdown pass.
For McLaurin, it was his fifth touchdown reception of the season, leading all rookie receivers in the NFL.
“His performance doesn’t surprise us, but it’s good to see a rookie with that type of production,” Callahan said. “It’s rare that you can step into the National Football League and have the type of production that he’s had so soon and so early in the season.”