Redskins running back Adrian Peterson knows exactly which play haunts him the most from Saturday night’s loss to the Titans. It's one you'd least expect.
With Washington trailing by three and needing to score in the final minutes to win or extend the game, Peterson took a handoff on third-and-1, burst up the middle and jumped over the trenches to gain two yards and ensure a new set of downs in Redskins territory. It’s what the Redskins needed, but Peterson knew he could have had more.
“I don’t know, I just kind of locked in my mind, ‘Hey let me get the first down.’ It was a bounce to our side, I seen it and I should have took it,” Peterson said. “But it was like, first down let’s get a new set. I just pressed it and jumped over the pile. That’s an opportunity that I look at and I’m just like [hits the podium table]. You know, it hurts. I bounce that one, I hit my head on the goal post.”
That regret, even during a positive play, epitomized his day. On 26 carries, Peterson ran for 119 yards, passing Eric Dickerson for eighth on the all-time rushing list and amassing 1,000 rushing yards for the season, the first time he’d accomplished that since 2015.
But quarterback Josh Johnson’s interception with less than two minutes remaining sealed the team’s fate, and pushed those positive accomplishments to the background.
“We had four and a half minutes to go and I wanted to make sure we still continued to pound them a little bit, I didn’t want to put it all on Josh right there,” Gruden said of the final drive.
“The loss overrides that. Maybe, I don’t know,” Peterson said of his milestones. “Hopefully I’m able to appreciate it after Christmas or something. For the time being, I play this game to win and have an opportunity to win a championship. Falling short of having that opportunity is what’s heavy on my heart right now. I don’t know, just gotta let this one sink in and bounce back and finish the season off on the right note.”
The Redskins’ 25-16 defeat at Nissan Stadium severely crippled their playoff chances, and Peterson, despite having a banner day running behind an offensive line that looked to have its way for the majority of the day, still put blame on his shoulders.
“It wasn’t good enough for me today, the way that I played, because of those missed opportunities,” Peterson said. “I know it looked like we were productive, ‘Oh we ran the ball well.’ But, there was so many missed opportunities by me, so I hold myself accountable.
“I can’t help but blame myself,” he added later. “They put the ball in my hand a lot today, there were some opportunities that was like, ‘bam it was almost.’ For me, I have to make those count.”
The yards Peterson did gain became incredibly valuable considering the Redskins fielded two guards who were replacing other replacements. Gruden noticed early that even with the limited time playing together, the line was having its way with Tennessee and Peterson provided the offense ample short distances on second and third down situations.
On Washington’s only touchdown drive, the Redskins marched 93 yards down the field and utilized just under 11 minutes of clock. They ended up beating the Titans in time of possession by seven minutes, unable to find the explosive play but continuing to gain first downs in small chunks.
For the first time in several contests, the run game was a weapon, even without tight ends Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis and tackle Ty Nsekhe, just a few of the many players on offense banged up.
“We were getting movement,” Gruden said. “So when you see your offensive line moving them you’re going to stick with that. AP was running the ball physical, right up the middle and getting us four, five yards. You can see what type of offense we want to be when we’re getting four, five yards on first down. We’re not going to just drop back, we’re going to continue to pound it until they stop it. We worked some play actions, tried a couple shot plays off of those same looks, didn’t have a lot of success but the running game was outstanding.”
Peterson’s play this year has elevated the Redskins in times of extreme adversity, much like Saturday night, playing with a quarterback who hadn’t thrown an NFL pass in seven years before a few weeks ago. It’s something the team must consider this offseason, as they plan for the future and determine how valuable he is to the organization.
But Peterson wants you to know he could have done more. It’s an attitude and playing style the team has needed, and his sense of regret over the extra yardage left on the field was balanced by the extra yardage he fought and pulled for, oftentimes with several Titans unable to bring him down.
“Sometimes you give it your all and you fall short,” he said. “That was the result today.”