Football Team

Gibson plays a Christian McCaffrey-like role in WFT's big win

Football Team
Antonio Gibson sheds a tackle against the Seahawks

Christian McCaffrey is one of the most dynamic running backs in the NFL, yet that didn't stop some experts from comparing Antonio Gibson to the Panthers' star before he ever took an NFL snap.

Why? Well, McCaffrey has one of the most unique skill sets at the running back position. While he's excellent at running the football, McCaffrey is arguably more dangerous when in open space as a pass-catcher. Gibson, who was primarily a wideout in college, was drafted by Washington to be a full-time running back. The thinking was that his skill set would be a perfect fit for the offense Scott Turner, McCaffrey's old offensive coordinator in Carolina, wanted to run in Washington.

Yet so far, Gibson has not had a McCaffrey-like role in Washington's offense through the first year and a half of his career. Although he's largely been productive and flashed at times, a shin injury, fumbling issues and an overall lack of volume prevented him from having that true second-year breakout and taking on a role similar to Carolina's star running back.

But on Monday night, Gibson channeled his inner McCaffrey and played an instrumental role in Washington's 17-15 victory over the Seattle Seahawks, a game where he received the largest workload of his young NFL career.

"Crazy," Gibson said postgame, the perfect word to sum up his night.

For the evening, Gibson carried the football 29 times, five more than his previous career-high. He finished with 111 yards on the ground, the third-highest total of his career and his best outing this season. That also doesn't include a 37-yard run Gibson had late in the fourth quarter that was called back due to a holding penalty.

 

Gibson was also heavily involved in the passing game. He caught seven passes for 35 yards. His seven receptions were also a career-high and the most he's had in a game since Washington's Thanksgiving victory over the Dallas Cowboys nearly one year ago.

"He played a heck of a football game. He really did," head coach Ron Rivera said.

In total, Washington ran 79 offensive plays. Gibson touched the ball on 36 of them, good for nearly half (46%) of the offensive snaps. Talk about the faith Turner and head coach Ron Rivera have in their second-year back.

"That's just trust," Gibson said. "For me, for the linemen, for the offense. You just gotta go out there and show why they keep calling you name and keep doing it and keep doing it until the defense gives up."

During Washington's three-game winning streak, sticking with the run has been a constant theme, allowing the Burgundy and Gold to control the time of possession and play the style of football it wants. That was the case once again on Monday, as Washington was on offense for over 41 minutes of the game and ran 44 more offensive plays than Seattle.

While Gibson received the lion's share of the workload, his fellow backfield mate J.D. McKissic had a big game as well. McKissic touched the ball 12 times (seven rushes, five receptions) and totaled 56 yards and two touchdowns, proving once again that he's a home run threat every time he touches the ball.

Although Gibson and McKissic have different body types, they both have similar skill sets. McKissic's evolution and improvement since he arrived in Washington -- he totaled a career-high 80 receptions last season -- is part of the reason why Gibson has not assumed a McCaffrey-like role in the offense. Washington has realized that McKissic is simply too talented to keep off the field.

While Gibson and McKissic's similar skill sets don't necessarily complement one another the best on paper, the two have turned into one of the more dangerous backfield duos in the league. Gibson couldn't pinpoint exactly why he and McKissic complement one another so well, but he loves it regardless.

"I don't know, but I love it, though," Gibson said. "[He's] one of the best receiving backs if you ask me. I'll keep saying that. With my ability to run the ball, I can also go out there and catch, him going out there and catching, also being able to get in between the tackles. So, I just feel like they don't really know what's going on when we're both out there. So, it compliments well."

On Washington's final offensive drive, McKissic suffered a neck injury and had to be carted off. His agent tweeted that McKissic is "all good" postgame, which is great news for Washington. But, had McKissic not gotten hurt, Gibson is confident his fellow backfield mate would've found paydirt for a third time on Monday night.

 

"He was headed towards a hell of a game," Gibson said. "He had two touchdowns before [the injury] happened. Just making plays when his name was called. That's what he does. When he gets in, he makes plays. That's the J.D. we all know. I think he would have had probably another touchdown if he was still in."

Nearly one month ago, Washington was sitting at 2-6 and on a four-game losing streak. Three wins later, the club is currently in seventh place in the NFC -- the conference's final Wild Card spot -- and just two games back of the Cowboys for first place in the NFC East. 

There's still a lot of football to be played, including a five-game divisional stretch to end the season. But Gibson is proud of how this team has fought back and created life in what felt like a lost season just a few weeks ago.

"I just feel like that's part of the team," Gibson said. "Down in a slump, back against the wall, we always continue to fight. It shows from last year coming on to this year. [We] didn't start off [the season] how we wanted to, but [we've] continued to fight and are making a push for it now. I feel like that's what this team is about. We're going to continue to fight and that's what we've been doing."