Resurgent Jamison Crowder Key to Washington's Scant Playoff Hopes

Sean Tomlinson@@SeanGTomlinsonNFL AnalystNovember 24, 2017

Washington Redskins wide receiver Jamison Crowder (80) pushes New York Giants strong safety Landon Collins (21) back during the second half of an NFL football game in Landover, Md., Thursday, Nov. 23, 2017. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Nick Wass/Associated Press

Staying awake for the final leg of a nearly 12-hour Thanksgiving Day football odyssey can be challenging enough while fighting off a turkey-induced slumber. The New York Giants and Washington Redskins didn't make that task any easier in their sloppy, mistake-filled contest.

The Redskins rose from a dreary finish to a holiday tripleheader and prevailed 20-10 at FedExField in Landover, Maryland.

There are no style points awarded for wins, of course, especially critical late-season victories that keep faint but real playoff hopes alive.

It doesn't matter that the teams combined for 16 punts, with seven of those coming from the Redskins. It also doesn't matter that there were 10 combined sacks or that Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins went down six times.

Nick Wass/Associated Press

No, what matters for the Redskins is their season still has a heartbeat, all because wide receiver Jamison Crowder played the role of defibrillator.

Washington tried extremely hard to lose at home in prime time against a team that entered Week 12 with a 2-8 record. The Redskins moved the chains on just 26 percent of their third-down attempts (4-of-15). And these weren't difficult tries: They whiffed on 3rd-and-1 in the first half and an even more crushing 4th-and-1 with 2:05 to play in the second quarter.

They also somehow managed a delay-of-game penalty coming out of a fourth-quarter timeout—while facing 4th-and-1 on the Giants' 40-yard line during a 10-10 contest. That plunged both the game and the Redskins' season to new depths of despair.

But Crowder emerged as the one shining light. He erased all that bumbling and made sure his team still had at least a fingernail's grasp on a postseason push.

His brilliance Thursday night can be measured a few ways. Let's start simple: Cousins finished with 242 passing yards, and Crowder accounted for a career-high 141 of them. The second-best receiver on either sideline was the Giants' Tavarres King, who had just 36 receiving yards on two catches.

As ESPN Stats & Information noted, there's another stunning comparison that shows how high Crowder soared above the trash heap:

A wideout shouldn't end a night with more receiving yards than a quarterback had passing yards, but here we are. Crowder arrived at his yardage total through seven receptions and 20.1 yards per catch.

He was a consistent chunk-play outlet, as punctuated by his 15-yard touchdown catch to briefly give Washington a third-quarter lead. The Redskins handed the cushion back after a 53-yard pick-six by Giants defender Janoris Jenkins that should have been a routine catch by Byron Marshall.

But Crowder persisted. His clutch 17-yard catch to keep a fourth-quarter drive alive on 3rd-and-6 with 5:05 to play was a game-defining moment. He pushed his offense into the red zone, and two plays later Cousins connected with Josh Doctson for the game-winning touchdown:

Prior to that, Crowder combined his speed and after-the-catch tenacity to sting the Giants deep multiple times. That included receptions of 38, 33 and 25 yards.

He can beat coverage from both the slot and outside, and is becoming a versatile weapon. The 24-year-old has recorded 412 receiving yards over his last four games in a second-half surge.

The third-year receiver out of Duke is blossoming and has logged three outings with seven-plus receptions since Week 8. His next act will be difficult, though, because he'll have to prop up an entire offense.

In Week 11, the Redskins lost a major contributor, running back Chris Thompson, to a season-ending injury when he broke his fibula. Tight end Jordan Reed is an athletic wonder, but he's perennially injured—this time with a hamstring setback—and has missed the past four games. The Redskins offensive line has also been colored with shades of black and blue, and star left tackle Trent Williams sat out Thursday with a right knee injury.

LANDOVER, MD - NOVEMBER 23: Wide receiver Jamison Crowder #80 of the Washington Redskins runs past defensive back Ross Cockrell #37 of the New York Giants after catching a fourth quarter pass at FedExField on November 23, 2017 in Landover, Maryland. (Phot
Rob Carr/Getty Images

Crowder will need to become the soul of the Redskins offense if they want to kick down the playoff door. And there is hope, thanks to both the win over the Giants and the soft schedule that lies ahead.

With a 5-6 record, the Redskins sit 1.5 games back of the second wild-card spot, which is held by the Atlanta Falcons. Given the strength of the NFC, they can only afford to lose one more game, and even that could be a death blow. That one one loss could come in Week 14 against the surging Los Angeles Chargers, who have won five of their last seven games.

But the Redskins don't have any remaining opponents with a record above .500, which includes the 5-6 Chargers. The five teams (the Chargers, Dallas Cowboys, Arizona Cardinals, Denver Broncos and the Giants again) have a combined record of 19-34.

There's an opening for the Redskins. Not a wide or particularly promising opening, and it will take a lot for them to squeeze through. But having any postseason chance at all is a victory for a team that had lost four of its last five games heading into Week 12.

The Redskins aren't sunk quite yet. But they're not floating, either.

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