In one of the most dramatic games of the year, the Washington Redskins defeated the San Diego Chargers, 30-24, in overtime. It was a game with a last-minute touchdown that was overturned, a fullback who took over late and a pick-six that was caught in the end zone.
The question is, what should you take away from Washington's overtime win and San Diego's crushing defeat?
Washington Needs to Run
During the Redskins' 30-24 win over the Chargers, the stars of the game were running back Alfred Morris and fullback Darrel Young. Both players found the back of the end zone, and when it was all said and done, Washington's balanced rushing attack led the win.
It's about time the Redskins got back to what works.
Morris carried the ball 25 times for 121 yards and a touchdown, while Young took it five times for 12 yards and three scores. In the end, the Redskins tallied 209 yards and four scores on the ground.
Robert Griffin III was 23-of-32 for 291 yards, no touchdowns and one interception. In the latter stages of the game, he made clutch throws by allowing the run game to open things up.
That's not an exception to a rule.
Through eight games, the Redskins are averaging 38.3 rushing attempts per win and 23.6 carries per loss. The proof is in the numbers that Washington succeeds when running the football and fails when depending too heavily upon the pass.
Plain and simple, Washington needs to run the football if it plans on reaching the playoffs in 2013.
San Diego Needs Balance
The Chargers have been a pleasant surprise in 2013, going 4-4 after nine weeks of the 2013 regular season. San Diego routinely wins when displaying offensive balance but struggles to piece together victories when they become too heavily dependent upon the pass.
This was an example of the latter.
The Chargers threw the ball 46 times to just 16 running plays, inevitably resulting in questions surrounding the team's play-calling. This was never more evident than during the closing moments of the fourth quarter, when San Diego abandoned the run in goal-line sets and failed to score a touchdown on passing plays.
Considering Ryan Mathews had run for at least 100 yards in consecutive games and averaged 4.9 yards per carry against Washington, it's hard to explain why this happened.
San Diego is 4-1 when Mathews gets at least 16 carries but have gone 0-3 during games in which he's tallied 13 or less. Mathews hasn't been the most consistent player, but when he touches the ball, the offense opens up.
Moving forward, Mike McCoy, Ken Whisenhunt and company need to give Philip Rivers some help by running the ball at a consistent rate.
Nothing is Decided Yet
The Dallas Cowboys are the only team in the NFC East with a record at or above .500. Somehow, every team in the division is within at least 2.5 games of the lead with at least seven games remaining on every one of those team's schedules.
Which team will make the playoffs?
Washington is now 1.5 games off the division lead at 3-5.
It hasn't been pretty for the Redskins, but with the win over San Diego, they've moved directly into competition for the NFC East crown. The Redskins won't play the division-leading Cowboys until Dec. 22, but Washington has a legitimate opportunity to storm back into the race for the title.
The Chargers are in a similar position.
San Diego is 4.5 games out of the lead for the AFC West but is .5 games behind the New York Jets for the final wild-card spot. That's likely to be the way things are until season's end, as the Chargers remain in the hunt for the postseason.
Nine weeks in, nothing is decided.