Special Teams Help Redskins Steal a Win in Baltimore

BALTIMORE — There is more than one way to win a football game.

The Redskins received notable contributions from their special teams unit on Sunday in a 16-10 win over the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium.

Jamison Crowder returned a punt 85 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter and Duke Ihenacho knocked down a pass on a fake field goal to help turn the tide for Washington. That more than made up for a missed extra point from kicker Dustin Hopkins, who added his 13th field goal of the season. He did miss a field goal, too, but that was into a stiff wind and from 56 yards out.

“We were able to get out of here with a win. That’s all that really matters,” defensive back Josh Norman said. “Big ups to everybody who was able to be a part of that. Special teams was huge today, absolutely huge. I can’t say enough about them. They put points on the board.”

That started with Crowder, whose 85-yard return continued a strong season. As a rookie he was the primary punt returner, but finished 24th in average yards per return. That was a disappointment after a college career where Crowder returned four punts for touchdowns at Duke.

Crowder had already set a career high with a 50-yard return in Week 3 against the New York Giants. This time his return ignited the Redskins by pulling them to within 7-6 after Hopkins missed the extra point.

“It was a lot of pieces involved in that,” Crowder said. “Guys did a really good job of blocking. I saw a crease, broke a tackle, and it was just a run to the end zone. When I saw the guy to my left, he had an angle on me, I braced to protect the football, but when I was able to break his tackle, then I just dug in and headed to the end zone.”

It was the first punt return for a touchdown by a Washington player since Santana Moss on Oct. 26, 2008 – a stretch of 124 regular-season games that was the longest active streak in the NFL. It’s also the longest punt return since an 87-yarder by Antwaan Randle-El on Oct. 22, 2006.

“The guys are blocking a lot better. Last year, sometimes, I’d make the wrong cut, and other times, there’d be a lot of guys in my face,” Crowder said. “This year, guys are doing a real good job of matching up. I’m able to catch the ball and get a lot of yardage before facing my first defender.”

That wasn’t the only big special teams play. The Redskins didn’t notice that on a field goal attempt by Baltimore with 4:28 left in the second quarter, kicker Justin Tucker lined up opposite how he normally does. He prepared to kick with his left foot. No matter. Ihenacho broke with tight end Crockett Gillmore as Tucker rolled to his right. The pass to Gillmore smacked off Ihenacho’s helmet after a well-timed leap.

“I just kind of sensed something,” Ihenacho said. “Usually, we come off so hard, but I didn’t come off as hard, for some reason. When they hiked the ball, [Justin Tucker] took a step up, and he never does that – he takes a step back. He took a step up so I just kind of disrupted him.”

Follow Redskins reporter Brian McNally on Twitter.

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