Brian Robinson Jr. and Antonio Gibson become one-two punch Ron Rivera envisioned

Robinson and Gibson have become the one-two punch Rivera envisioned originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

Four months to the day after getting shot twice in an attempted carjacking, Brian Robinson is less than a day removed from his very first 100-yard rushing performance in the NFL. It’s been an understandably arduous road back for the Commanders’ rookie running back.

Apart from Robinson being a key facet of Washington’s recent stretch of six wins in seven weeks, his healing process and getting back to 100% has been critical to shaping the team’s in-game strategy.

“Looking at us and looking how things were going, the one thing that really, when we got B-Rob back, really pointed to saying, ‘let’s get back to [the run game],’” head coach Ron Rivera said Monday after Robinson rushed for 105 yards and caught a touchdown pass in the Week 12 win over Atlanta.

“He played in Weeks 4, 5, and 6 but we knew he wasn’t B-Rob yet. It was gonna be a little bit of time. Then as we got further and further into it – and the Bears game really kind of showed us, hey, this is the start of who we can be. And it just started coming together and kept coming together.”

That game in question – an ugly, defensive 12-7 win in Chicago on Thursday Night in Week 6 – was a seminal moment for the Commanders this season, it seems. Washington came into the matchup on a four-game losing streak and simply needed to pick up a win against a struggling Bears side.

It ended up being the game that unlocked, in a way as Rivera alluded, Robinson’s contributions to the Commanders’ offense. Carson Wentz only threw 22 passes the entire game, while Robinson alone got 17 rushing touches for 60 yards and his first professional touchdown in his first-ever start in an NFL regular season game. Washington finished with 128 yards on the ground compared to just 86 through the air — cementing the notion that their offense could rely on the run to win games.

“I’m very impressed [with Robinson] and very appreciative of it too because he’s such a young guy who’s really got a tremendous skill set that can be very, very good in this league,” Rivera said.

It was apparent coming into the season that Washington wanted to utilize a running-back-by-committee approach to the run game. Coaches made Robinson aware of that prior to the season – that he’d be splitting carries with Antonio Gibson and the Commanders’ other backfield threats – to which he apparently responded very well.

“Secondly, his approach to things. Telling him, ‘Hey look, just so you understand, we want to be a two-back attack. We have a compliment to who you are, so you’re not gonna be in there 60 plays. You’re gonna play 35 plays or 40 plays, you may only get 18 to 25 touches, so you gotta make the most of it.’ And he accepted that. 

“He’s handled that very well as a young pro, as has Antonio Gibson. Those two guys are the kind of tandem that I talked about when I first got here, wanting to be able to emulate what I’ve done in the past because I really do think being able to run the ball well helps your entire team.”

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Prior to the season, Rivera alluded to allocating the run game exactly as what has transpired in D.C. He said he hoped Robinson and Gibson would be utilized as a ‘one-two punch’ in the backfield. So far, that vision has come to fruition.

Though Robinson missed the first four games of the season as he rehabbed from the shooting incident, his numbers are almost identical to Gibson’s.

Gibson has appeared in all 12 Commanders’ games this season, rushing 130 times for 476 yards and three touchdowns. Robinson, in four fewer games, has rushed 126 times for 467 yards, two touchdowns, and has equaled Gibson’s 3.7 yards per carry. 

Washington’s run game, through a series of tragic, extraordinary and unforeseen events, has somehow still become an effective backfield duo. Now with a fully healthy Robinson and Gibson both in the mix, the next five games should see an even heavier dependence on the run game for the Burgundy & Gold.

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