The Washington Redskins stayed unified during halftime despite a brutal start and long odds against a comeback victory. Yet disagreement arose following the 31-30 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, just minutes after Kirk Cousins game-winning touchdown pass to Jordan Reed capped the largest comeback in team history. Washington trailed 24-0 in the first half.
The dispute? Head coach Jay Gruden and defensive lineman Ricky Jean-Francois differed on which highlight moment deserved play of the day honors.
The contenders? Not a touchdown score, but a tackle and a kick.
Gruden identified cornerback Bashaud Breeland chasing down Doug Martin at Washington's five-yard line after the Bucs runner raced 49 yards. Already leading by three points, Tampa Bay settled for a field goal and the 30-24 lead with 2:27 remaining.
Cousins directed Washington's 11-play, 80-yard game-winning drive on the next possession.
"Play of the day," Gruden said of Breeland's tackle. "If they score there, the game is over."
Breeland's day was over on the play as he left with a hamstring injury.
"That shows what type of guy he is," Gruden continued. "I talk about Breeland being the ultimate competitor. If he takes that one play off...they go up by 10 and the game is over most likely. ...When you see effort plays like that, they stand out and they make your team better in the long run."
Good points about saving points from the head coach. Yet one of his defensive players pointed toward the special teams. Specifically, the Redskins finally recovering one of Dustin Hopkins' perfectly executed onside kicks.
Told of Gruden's "play of the day" statement, Jean Francois said, "That was clutch -- but the play of the game was the onside kick."
After trailing by 24 points in the first half, the Redskins cut the lead to 24-14 five minutes into the third quarter on the first of Cousins' three touchdown passes. Scoring a touchdown in the third quarter counts as a surprise considering they didn't produce any in the opening six games. Yet the real stunner came moments later as the Redskins recovered Hopkins' latest perfectly executed bouncer.
"I know we've kicked like three and we hadn't gotten of them," Jean Francois said. "From our kicker, we couldn't ask that man to do anything else besides kicking it and hopefully recovering at the same time."
Trenton Robinson did the recovering in this case though initially the referees thought the Bucs came up with the ball.
"The referee pointed that they got the ball back. I was about to go crazy," nose tackle Terrance Knighton said. "I was going to throw my helmet in the stands."
Instead seven plays later, Cousins threw his second touchdown pass and his first to Reed. From there it was game on.
It was nearly game over with Martin running toward the end zone inside the final seven minutes.
"He gave his all," Knighton said of Breeland's hustle. "He got hurt on that play. That's the type of team we have. He gave us a fighting chance."
The Redskins can fight over which play saved the day or turned the tide. The key is they had options. Considering the start, that may be the biggest surprise of all.
"I like the fact that nobody blinked," Gruden said. "They all came together, they all played together. ...That's what team football is all about."