Derrius Guice was lined up in the backfield against the Carolina Panthers and staring at a wall of black jerseys, a sea of green grass and a 14-point deficit he was determined to change with his first carry of the game.
Quarterback Dwayne Haskins handed him the ball, and the wall that was the Panthers’ defense broke open in front of him. Guice sprinted through the hole and towards the open field, stiff-arming players on the way to a 60-yard run -- the longest of his career.
Guice didn’t make a big deal about the play after the game. “It was open,” he said of the play with a smile. “It’s just football. It happens. Sometimes it’s two yards, sometimes it’s 60. You never know.”
It’s possible Guice didn’t overblow the play because it’s what he expected when he finally shared the backfield with Adrian Peterson. Their combined 228-yard performance oSunday was what Guice envisioned a collaboration with the future Hall of Fame running back would look like.
“They finally got to see the two-headed monster of us [together],” Guice said. “Those are the days I’ve been waiting on.”
The Redskins ran over, through and around the Panthers all afternoon. They totaled 248 yards on the ground, with four players getting in on the action. Even Haskins contributed with a five-yard scramble on third down late in the fourth quarter.
But while Haskins and running back Chris Thompson were contributors, Guice and Peterson were the stars of Sunday’s game. They scored all three of the Redskins’ touchdowns, which is more scores in one game than in a five-game stretch from Week 7 to Week 12.
“It’s a spark,” Peterson said on what Guice brings to the offense. “I want him to be successful. That’s what he needs coming off the last two years. I’m always rooting for him, and I want him to know, ‘Hey, I’m in your corner,’ and we can do this together.'”
Coming into the 2019 season, many were expecting Guice and Peterson to be a lethal threat in the backfield. Those expectations were hampered almost as soon as the season began, though, as Guice tore his meniscus and was placed on Injured Reserve for the next eight weeks.
Guice made his return on Nov. 17 in the Week 11 matchup against the New York Jets, and the coaching staff has been steadily increasing his workload in each game. But whether he’s in on one play or 19 like he was against the Panthers, the team is glad to have both him and Peterson to work with.
“I think they’re both consistent, durable, tough, powerful type runners, but elusive enough where the can make people miss and also capable of springing off explosive runs,” said interim head coach Bill Callahan. “I think they both have those traits and they’re different in their own ways.”
Callahan doesn’t want to compare the two players -- that wouldn’t be fair, he said -- but he does like that both are at the offense’s disposal.
“I think yesterday was evident that we could have a good change up with them,” Callahan said.
With such a small sample size of Guice and Peterson working together, creating chemistry between them presented some challenges. But Peterson said they have a signal for when one needs the other to come in the game so they don’t impede on each other’s success.
“If not, then we let that guy, especially if he’s rolling, let them spin,” Peterson said. “I feel like as a collective group, we all did a good job.”
Guice hopes what happened against the Panthers will be a building block for the rest of the year.
“We’re just going to keep building,” Guice said. “We’re just going to lean on each other, try to be healthy, try to keep everything positive, just keep moving.”
After Guice’s big run in the first quarter, he and Peterson methodically chipped away at the Panthers defense. While Peterson quietly compiled 99 yards on 13 carries -- his final touch resulted in a 12-yard touchdown run -- Guice was making highlight-reel plays. He got his first rushing touchdown in the second quarter, but one of his biggest moments came in the fourth quarter when he stiff-armed linebacker Shaq Thompson on a 37-yard run.
“That was just instinct,” Guice said with a laugh. “[Thompson] is a very good player. He’s always around the ball. He was the first guy there and my first instinct was to strike him.”
Guice finished the game with 129 yards and two scores on just 10 carries, but Callahan said his role will continue to grow as he becomes more comfortable in the offense.
“I think we’re still learning what he can do not only as a running back, but as a receiver,” Callahan said. “He catches the ball fairly well. So, there’s a lot of range to his game, a lot of ceiling in his game. I think we’re just starting to untap it.”
Regardless of how they're used, the Guice and Peterson duo has officially arrived. Peterson doesn’t remember the last time he and another running back have had that good of a game together, but he loves it all the same.
“It seems like we’ve found the right recipe,” Peterson said.
Check out photos of the Washington Redskins warming up before their regular season Week 13 game against the Carolina Panthers presented by Bose.