A linebacker’s dream came true for veteran Andrew Van Ginkel in the first quarter of Sunday’s 45-15 rout at Washington.
Van Ginkel intercepted a Commanders screen pass behind the line of scrimmage and dashed untouched 33 yards for a touchdown to put Miami up 17-0.
“It starts during the week with preparation,” Van Ginkel said. “It’s something that was on my radar. I saw the tackle kind of [does] the same thing on the wide receiver screens, so I kind of expected it. When it happened, I couldn’t believe it and the rest was history.”
It was Van Ginkel’s second career interception and second career touchdown. The Wisconsin product had a 23-yard interception return last season against the Texans and a 78-yard fumble return for a score against the Rams in 2020.
“Gink has a horseshoe up his [expletive] or something because the ball always finds him,” Emmanuel Ogbah said. “I’m happy for him. I am proud of him. I’ve seen him battle. I’ve seen him work. Just happy to see him get his shine now.”
Linebacker Duke Riley loved to see Van Ginkel — whom he calls his “flow bro” — get the big score to help the defense.
“It’s so funny,” Riley said. “Some of my family, when Van Ginkel and I came in at the same time, it’s kind of hard to tell us apart because of his hair and his number is kind of close to mine. I love to see it.”
The defense held Washington to seven points in the game’s first 40 minutes, racing to a 38-7 lead and sacking the Commanders’ Sam Howell three times.
“I am definitely proud of the guys,” Riley said. “It’s all the equivalent of all the work we put in. We put in so much work throughout the week. Everybody counts on every guy to do their job. The way we prepare throughout the week is the final picture of what you guys see on Sunday.”
Riley saw his play count increase after starter Jerome Baker exited in the second quarter with a knee injury and did not return.
“He means a lot to us,” Ogbah said. “He’s in our heart. I don’t know exactly what happened to him, but hopefully it’s nothing serious. Hopefully he bounces back stronger. He’s in our prayers and our thoughts, always.”
Defensive tackle Zach Sieler on losing Baker: “It’s a loss. I don’t know what happened to him. I hope he is all right. I am praying for him. But yeah, someone like Duke can step in. I have been with Duke for three or four years as well. You know the guy behind him, you know what he’s going to do and you can trust him.”
When Baker had to leave, Riley wore the green dot on his helmet and assumed the role of play caller, something he has experience with in practice and previous games.
“I’ve done it before so I am kind of used to it,” Riley said.
The defense again stepped up Sunday without starter Jaelan Phillips (Achilles, out for season) and safety Jevon Holland (knees), plus the loss of Baker.
Head coach Mike McDaniel believed Van Ginkel and Ogbah played with extra motivation to honor Phillips.
“I think they did,” McDaniel said. “I think they did enough to make Jaelan smile, which is important to them. This is a very tight group that doesn’t just live in their own experience, that really shares the journey of each other and each individual teammate, knowing the disappointment.
“I don’t think they wanted anything to do with letting Jaelan down, because this team and the organization is extremely important to Jaelan. He’s a big part of what we’re trying to do here. So, they took ownership of that and made sure to match what he brings, which is a lot.”
The defense has allowed 13, 13 and 15 points during their current three-game win streak. Van Ginkel says credit goes to team depth when injuries occur to Phillips and now Baker.
“I hope it’s not something serious,” Van Ginkel said of Baker. “He’s a leader on this team. He’s a great player and he consistently proves himself year in and year out. It’s tough. Obviously last week with [Phillips] and this week with Bake. It’s tough to lose guys on your team that are good players.”