With the Washington Redskins’ 2015-16 campaign in the books, it’s time to take a look back at Trent Murphy’s second NFL season.
Trent played all 16 regular season games for Washington and made his first career playoff appearance. Unfortunately, it was an early exit in D.C. as TM and Co. fell to the Green Bay Packers, 35-18, in the opening round. But overall, the Skins made tremendous strides, improving from a 4-12 season in 2014 to a 9-7 finish and an NFC East championship.
When looking back at the biggest part of that turnaround, TM said that the Redskins became a true team.
“The biggest change this season has been the camaraderie in the locker room,” Trent said. “Guys are tight, playing together, working hard together and just staying the course.”
The D.C. boys needed that mentality to make it through a tough 2-4 start. Trent totaled eight tackles through the first three games, but Washington came out with just one win over the St. Louis Rams, and a pair of defeats to the Miami Dolphins and their divisional rival New York Giants.
But the Redskins got one back the following week. TM sacked Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford once in a terrific day for the D.C. defensive front, which registered five sacks in a much-needed 23-20 win. It was a classic NFC East thriller, and No. 93 punctuated the big victory.
Washington led most of the way until Bradford found Miles Austin for a 39-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter. But the Skins’ offense came up in the clutch. Kirk Cousins linked up with Pierre Garcon from four yards out to put Washington ahead by three with just 26 seconds to go. That put the Eagles in desperation mode, and Trent took advantage.
TM tallied his team’s fourth sack of the day on second down of Philly’s final drive, and Ryan Kerrigan added another on the following play. Facing 4th and 16, the Eagles tried to lateral their way down the field, but Trent pounced on an errant toss as time ran out and Washington moved to 2-2.
But unfortunately, the Redskins couldn’t build off the big win, enduring back-to-back road losses. Through the middle of the season, the Redskins found some success: staging a historic comeback against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, blowing out the New Orleans Saints and edging the New York Giants. But they couldn’t find the consistency they needed, particularly on the road.
After a disappointing Week 13 loss to the Dallas Cowboys, the situation was suspect for the Redskins. They were in a three-way tie atop the NFC East with the Eagles and the Giants, and the Cowboys weren’t far behind at 4-8. But D.C. faced three road tilts in their final four games—and to that point in the season, they were 0-5 away from home—until a big play from Trent helped flip the switch on Washington’s hottest stretch of the season.
Washington was already up 14-0 in the second quarter when Trent blew past Bears right tackle Kyle Long, and drilled quarterback Jay Cutler. The veteran quarterback had no time to react and coughed up the football after being rocked by No. 93. Trent grabbed the loose ball for his third career fumble recovery and his second of the season. The Skins went on to win, 24-21.
“The game plan was just to do what we do,” Trent said of the team’s first road win of the season. “We didn’t have anything crazy. We weren’t gonna change the game of football today. We were gonna play fundamental and keep getting after the ball. We probably would’ve liked to have a few more turnovers today, but we were still hunting. We did a good job.”
The win was bigger than just the team’s first away from home: It sparked a four-game win streak that carried the Redskins all the way to their first playoff berth since 2012, and just their third in the last decade.
“We’re trying to go 1-0 every week the rest of the season. We’re on to the next one,” TM said afterward. “We’re in this. Let’s go. We’re going to get back to work tomorrow and get the next one.”
D.C. did just that, running past the Buffalo Bills 35-25 at home on FedEx Field the following week for their first back-to-back wins of the year. They kept it going on the road in their final two games, topping the Eagles and the Cowboys, both by double-digit margins, to claim the NFC East crown, and a game at home to start the playoffs.
Unfortunately, the inexperienced Redskins drew a matchup with a playoff veteran and a Super Bowl champion in Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. The Super Bowl XLV champs had experienced an up-and-down 2015 campaign as well, and Trent and Co. hoped to wreak havoc in the backfield to keep their season going.
However, Green Bay came through with one of its best performances of the year, running away with a 35-18 win. With his season done, all No. 93 could do was tip his cap to Rodgers and Co., and look forward to Year 3.
“Credit to him. He’s a heck of a quarterback,” TM said of Rodgers. “He can move around the pocket and make plays happen, so we were expecting that. I haven’t watched the tape yet, but I’m sure there could’ve been more pressure on him.”
Trent finished with 33 tackles, a career-high 3.5 sacks, along with a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries.