LANDOVER, Md. -- Silence isn't golden for a pass-rusher, something Washington Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan has known for a while. So even though he was applying good pressure in games, he knows that wasn't enough. Sunday, he provided more than enough -- and he did it with a little help.
Kerrigan also said he was motivated by Purdue superfan Tyler Trent, whose battle with terminal bone cancer was profiled on ESPN on Saturday. Kerrigan brought up Trent's name before taking any questions in a postgame news conference following Washington's 20-17 win over Dallas. He also has a gift for Trent.
"Just a guy that's really uplifted a lot of people, so I wanted to give a little shout-out to him let him know that I'm thinking about him," said Kerrigan, who played at Purdue. "We're going to send him my jersey from today just to let him know that we appreciate him and we appreciate the way he's uplifted the Purdue community."
Kerrigan said he doesn't know Trent, but has had some exchanges with him via Twitter. Trent was profiled on ESPN's College GameDay on Saturday and then attended Purdue's win over Ohio State.
"Definitely been thinking about him a lot," Kerrigan said. "The whole school has rallied around him. You just see what kind of person he is and I definitely was thinking about him today when I was playing."
Kerrigan certainly provided Trent with more positive memories of someone connected to Purdue. Kerrigan's fourth-quarter strip sack provided the difference Sunday.
On the play, Kerrigan initially engaged the tight end, who was standing up about a yard outside the right tackle. Meanwhile, the Redskins ran a stunt on the right side and linebacker Josh Harvey-Clemons took a step toward the line after the snap, appearing as if he'd rush. When he dropped into coverage, the lineman inside slid to the right, creating a triple-team versus nose tackle Daron Payne. That created an opening for Kerrigan to run through cleanly, and he hit quarterback Dak Prescott in the end zone. As Prescott tried to spin, he lost the ball. Preston Smith scooped it up and stepped less than a yard into the end zone.
"When I'm getting chipped like that by a tight end, I'm trying to just play off the defensive tackle and [Payne] did a good getting up field and clearing a lane for me," Kerrigan said.
It was Kerrigan's second sack of the game. He'd been quiet throughout the first five games, with only one sack. Sometimes quarterbacks were getting rid of the ball too fast. Other times he was getting chipped. And sometimes he wasn't winning one-on-one battles. Kerrigan relies more on hands and power than speed, so it takes sometimes a little extra to get free. Coaches and players always repeat the mantra: Sacks come in bunches; stay consistent. That can be difficult to trust when you only have one sack.
"It was tough at times," Kerrigan said. "I stayed positive throughout the first couple of weeks when it didn't seem to be going my way in terms of sacks. It's the game; you've got to keep playing and keep working."
Kerrigan's strength is his consistency. He hasn't missed a game since being drafted by Washington in the first round in 2011. His approach hasn't wavered: He's a lead-by-example player in terms of his workouts and study habits.
That leads to consistency with numbers. His lowest sack total was 7.5 as a rookie; since then it has always been at least 8.5. And in the last four years, his lowest output was 9.5 in 2015.
In the previous two seasons, Kerrigan had a combined 24 sacks -- but in 14 of the 32 games, he was held without one. In other words, he has had quiet days in the past when people wonder where he has been, and then he responds. Sunday, he had several strong rushes versus Cowboys right tackle La'el Collins, driving him back with his right arm extended into his upper right chest.
"It's only a matter of time," Redskins defensive lineman Jonathan Allen said. "You can't hold a guy like Ryan Kerrigan through the whole season."
The coaches know exactly what to expect from Kerrigan, both in how he rushes and defends the run. And while Kerrigan felt motivation from Trent, Redskins coach Jay Gruden said he knows he doesn't have to prod his outside linebacker to get him going.
"I know I'm going to get his best effort every game," Gruden said. "The numbers aren't there, but his presence is felt. He pushes the pocket; he's very good against the run. He made a great play."