LANDOVER, Md. -- There were errant throws to go along with a lost fumble and an interception. Sixteen of 29 passes fell incomplete, while the other 13 totaled a combined 156 yards and zero touchdowns. These were the statistics of quarterback Dwayne Haskins in his third-career NFL start, an uneven showing that appeared destined to end in defeat.
But with the Redskins in need of a late spark Sunday against the Detroit Lions, the first-round rookie came through when necessary. With fewer than six minutes to play, Haskins orchestrated a nine-play, 54-yard drive that concluded with a field goal that tied the game at 16. He then got the ball back with under a minute to go following Quinton Dunbar's interception, using his legs and his arm to move the Redskins into field goal range.
Moments later, Haskins could forget about what had gone wrong in the Week 12 matchup. By way of a 41-yard field goal, the Redskins had all but sealed his first-career NFL victory.
"It feels great," Haskins said after the 19-16 win. "We lost a few [home games] in the past, but just the opportunity to come out here and play in front of the Redskins fans and being back home, every opportunity I get to play in this stadium is a blessing and an opportunity I want to maximize, and today we did that."
Haskins knew that if the Redskins could execute against a struggling Lions defense, they would win the game. But for much of the contest, the offense could not find its rhythm.
A lot of the blame fell on Haskins, who committed two turnovers (a fumble and an interception) and was more erratic Sunday than in his previous appearances.
Haskins attributed some of the accuracy issues to having "banged up" his wrist, though he responded with "I'm good" when asked about the severity of the injury. Interim coach Bill Callahan said Haskins' throwing woes were part of the development process of a young quarterback. Sometimes Haskins let go of the ball too quick, Callahan added, and other times he held onto it too long or threw it too hard.
The Redskins offense was also more vertically-oriented compared to past games, which led to Haskins frequently attempting passes down the field.
"He overthrew a few, and we had some receivers that were open, and I think he might have overloaded or his arm might have been too strong at times," Callahan said. "But I think we can all see the talent that he has, and I’m speaking of arm talent and his ability to connect downfield, intermediate, deep."
For the most part, Haskins missed wide and deep, which Callahan noted is preferable to underthrowing receivers or throwing behind them. On a lot of his incompletions, only a Redskins player was in position to possibly make the catch.
That was Haskins' intention going into Sunday, especially when he looked for his former college teammate and fellow rookie Terry McLaurin, who finished with a career-high 12 targets.
"My philosophy going into that game was to never underthrow Terry because of how good the corner was," Haskins said, referring to Lions' two-time Pro Bowler Darius Slay. "I placed the ball pretty good so if I was going to miss, I was going to miss deep and out wide so [Slay] wouldn’t have the opportunity to put his hands on the ball. We talked about it, I missed him and we could have connected on some of those. But he still had five catches for 72 yards, and he makes great plays, makes uncontested catches. He does not care who is guarding him, he is going to win, so that’s why I’m proud of him.”
Despite several misfires, one of which would have been an easy touchdown to McLaurin, Haskins trotted onto the field late in the fourth quarter as if it was his first drive of the game. The previous plays, drives and quarters -- none of that mattered. The Redskins were only down by a field goal, and Haskins was determined to erase that deficit.
The possession began with a 22-yard completion to running back Adrian Peterson and continued with a 15-yard strike to McLaurin, which moved the Redskins into opposing territory. After another first down, Haskins had McLaurin along the right edge of the end zone but barely overthrew him. While frustrating in the moment, Haskins had put the Redskins in position to get points. With Dustin Hopkins' 42-yard field goal, the game was tied at 16.
Haskins' biggest throw of his career came on the next drive, which began the Redskins' 46-yard line with 48 seconds to play. Haskins had already picked up one first down with an 11-yard scramble, and now he was trying to move the team into manageable field-goal range.
On 3rd-and-5 from the Detroit 38-yard line, Haskins dropped back and initially looked for slot receiver Trey Quinn on a fade along the left sideline. With Quinn covered, Haskins progressed through his reads, stepped up in the pocket and delivered a laser to a crossing McLaurin, who snatched the sailing ball with his fingertips for a 17-yard gain. The Redskins then called their final timeout, and the former Ohio State teammates walked off the field. On the next play, Hopkins pushed Washington ahead.
“It’s the clutch factor," rookie wideout Kelvin Harmon said. "Some players have it, some players don’t, and [Haskins] obviously has it.
Once the Redskins defense secured the win with an interception, Haskins and McLaurin shared an emotional embrace on the sideline. McLaurin was one of the first players to believe in Haskins at Ohio State, Haskins said after the game, and that confidence has not wavered with the Redskins. That much was evident during the crucial third-down connection, which Haskins said was a testament to the Redskins overcoming adversity throughout the game.
"That play right there is just us trusting each other to make it happen. Never giving up on one another," Haskins said. "We just shared that moment together knowing we’re going to be here for a while and win a lot more games like that."