The Redskins kicked off their 84th regular season in franchise history against the Pittsburgh Steelers, marking the 11th time the team have opened a season on Monday Night Football since the introduction of the broadcast package in 1970. Washington sought their first season-opening Monday night win since defeating the Dallas Cowboys, 35-16, in Week 1 of 1993. Though the Redskins lead the all-time series (42-32-3), recent history has not been kind to Washington against Pittsburgh, as the Steelers have a five-game winning streak that dates back to 1997.
Pregame festivities included a joining of opposing fandom in holy matrimony, and celebrated local Olympians, Ashley Nee (kayaking), Helen Maroulis (wrestling), Ginny Thrasher (shooting), Lauren Kieffer (equestrian), Ali Krieger (soccer), and Kevin Durant (who only received a smattering of boos from jilted hometown hoops fans.)
Local Olympians honored. pic.twitter.com/zRfYci0Bl2— Kendall Griggs (@KgriggsPhoto) September 13, 2016
Feeling the heat of the crowd after the pre-game fly-over, Steelers deferred on the opening coin toss, giving Washington the ball to start the game. Things got started quickly for the Skins on offense, as Jordan Reed picked up a first down through the air on the first play of the ball game, and made up for a dropped pass by converting on a subsequent third-and-long. It was just the beginning of a big first half for the 3rd most irreplaceable Redskin who was targeted 6 times before the halftime gun.
The Redskins drive stalled after the running game moved the offense backwards, and Jay Gruden opted to punt on 4th and 1 from the Pittsburgh 40 yard line. Preseason MVP Tress Way pinned the ball inside the Steelers 15 yard line, but Pittsburgh’s hurry-up offense hurried them off the field after a quick three-and-out. Jamison crowder had a ton of real estate to work with on the ensuing punt, but displayed symptoms of agoraphobia (that’s fear of open spaces for you non-armchair psychologists at home) and opted to call for a fair catch.
Fair catch? Uh…Okay. pic.twitter.com/6SbNiq8j6Y— Dan Levy (@DanLevyThinks) September 12, 2016
The Redskins moved quickly into enemy territory on their first long play of the ballgame, a 31-yard pitch and catch to DeSean Jackson, who capitalized on a mismatch with a linebacker in coverage off a drag route to give the offense their best chance of the first quarter. However, the Redskins could not take advantage and the drive stalled at the 13 yard line, giving Dustin Hopkins the opportunity to convert a 31 yard yard field goal with 5:56 left in the first, getting the Redskins on the board 3-0.
On the ensuing Steelers possession, Bashaud Breeland nabbed his own deflection out of the air on a Roethlisberger pass to Eli Rogers for the first defensive turnover of the season. Roethlisberger threw the ball intending for Rogers to continue to the outside, but instead his receiver broke off his route allowing Breeland to make his best play of what was otherwise a forgettable night.
Hopkins knocked home a 40 yard attempt on the next Redskins drive, making it 6-0 with 2:38 remaining in the opening quarter.
On the following Steelers possession, the visitors got their first big break of many in the game, as Ryan Kerrigan fought through an offensive lineman chokehold and pounced on top of his own forced fumble, only to see it wrested from his grasp at the bottom of the pile, allowing the Steelers to retain the football to close out the first quarter.
Pittsburgh opened up quarter number two with a renewed sense of purpose following their stroke of good luck and sought to make the Redskins pay. The Steelers once again averted danger, as an Antonio Brown fumble was ruled incomplete because he had "not established possession and become a runner."
As a side note, if anyone without a law degree can explain what a catch is, please do explain to us all in the comments below.
Perhaps after going out and buying a few lottery tickets, Steelers’ coach Mike Tomlin rolled the dice and went for it on 4th and 1 on the Redskins 29 yard line. The gamble paid off as Ben Roethlisberger went over the top with a perfectly thrown ball to Antonio Brown who beat Breeland in one-on-one coverage on the outside to give the Steelers a 7-6 lead. The pass was Roethlisberger’s 273rd career TD strike, tying him with Joe Montana for 13th all time.
This just in: Antonio Brown is very good. https://t.co/i8JRw0gf5e— The Comeback (@thecomeback) September 13, 2016
Washington sought to respond and began their next drive with a long ball over the middle to DeSean Jackson down to the Pittsburgh 42 yard line. However, back to back penalties by Vernon Davis and Trent Williams backed up the offense into a 1st and 25 inside their own territory. After getting back to within no man’s land on the opposing 38 yard line, the ‘Skins sought to replicate the Steelers’ success and went for it on 4th and 6, but Chris Thompson came up inches short, resulting on a turnover on downs.
The Steelers continued to capitalize on the Redskins miscues, converting on another 4th and 1 in Redskins territory with under two minutes left to go in the half. Roethlisberger connected in the end zone with Eli Rogers on a trip drill ball with 27 seconds remaining in the period, capping off a 14-play, 57-yard, 5:52 scoring drive and giving the Steelers an 8 point lead heading into the break.
PINBALL TOUCHDOWN https://t.co/vjw7jpzr6O— The Comeback (@thecomeback) September 13, 2016
At this point, we were basically all Jay Gruden:
Cousins finished the first half 12/18 for 146 yards, while Matt Jones tallied just 5 carries and 13 yards on the ground. In the receiving game, Jordan Reed had 4 catches for 73 yards, and Jackson added 3 receptions for 70 yards,
Though the Redskins had a strong first quarter, the second period was all Steelers, who outpaced Washington 8-to-1 on first downs. Additionally, it was a tough first half for Kory Lichtensteiger, who was put on blast by one of our website’s namesakes:
Need to get physical upfront. Let's start pounding the rock!!! #HTTR— Joe Jacoby (@JoeJacoby66HOG) September 12, 2016
The Steelers began the second half with the ball and continued where they left off, marching down to the Redskins 28 yard line before being held to a 46-yard field goal by Chris Boswell, making it 17-6 in favor of the visitors 11:16 left in the 3rd.
Pierre Garcon gave the Redskins their first lucky break of the night, recovering a Jamison Crowder first down catch and galloping out to the 44 yard line before Cousins promptly forced a ball into double coverage that was picked off by linebacker Ryan Shazier.
Washington’s poor fortunes continued as Ben Roethlisberger fielded a bad snap and made a desperation heave out to the sideline… directly to Sammie Coates for 42 yards into Redskins territory.
Antonio Brown collected in his 500th reception from Big Ben, which made him the first quarterback in NFL history to have more than 500 completions to three different receivers (Heath Miller and Hines Ward were the other two.) Brown did not rest on his laurels and followed up his milestone with a Willie Mays catch over the shoulder to who else, but Antonio Brown, who flew past Breeland once again and gave the Steelers a 24-6 lead, and gave a McCringleberry Tailfeather Twerk in the end zone.
The Redskins sought to bounce back, moving the ball down the field, but a 9-play, 52-yard drive stalled and ended in a 34-yard Hopkins field goal gave the Redskins their first points of the second half, to make it 24-9.
Washington forced a three-and-out, and got the ball back to close out quarter number three trailing by 15.
Back to back catches by Jamison Crowder and Vernon Davis set the Redskins up first and goal at the 1, where touchdown hawk Chris Thompson plunged into the end zone for the score. Dustin Hopkins made it a one score game at 24-16 booting in a 38-yard PAT following a delay of game penalty.
The Steelers got the ball back and made a point of pounding the rock with "Old Man" DeAngleo Williams, but the backbreaker came on a 3rd and 13 conversion to Sammy Coates, who was matched up with Josh Norman down inside the 30 yard line.
Just when the defense offered a modicum of hope, Antonio Brown once again hauled in a a 21 yard catch as he overpowered Breeland yet again.
Breeland finished off his disastrous defensive stand allowing Williams to juke him out of his cleats on the left side and march into the end zone. The 13-play, 73-yard drive put the game out of reach at 31-16.
Now, you see him.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 13, 2016
Now, you don't. pic.twitter.com/zYH0Aof0Sl
Redskins failed to convert on a 4th and 10 in their own territory after Cousins was flushed outside the pocket and forced out of bounds two yards shy of the sticks. The Steelers were unable to run out the clock, only by virtue of the the Redskins allowing them to march down the field and pick up another DeAngelo Williams touchdown run with 1:54 left in the contest making it 38-16.
A Ross Cockrell pass interference call inside the 10 on a long ball to DeSean Jackson set up the Redskins for an opportunity at a garbage-time touchdown, but instead the Steelers rubbed salt in the wound on a James Harrison interception in the end zone to come away with the win.
Kirk Cousins’ 17-game streak with at least one touchdown pass was snapped, and he finished the night 30/43 for 329 yards and 2 INT. The run game was definitely not up to speed, as the Redskins’ leading rusher was Matt Jones, who tallied 7 carries for 24 yards.
Antonio Brown, who spent most of the night matched up against Bashaud Breeland, played like a man possessed, recording 8 catches for 126 yards and 2 touchdowns. DeAngelo Williams could not be stopped all night on the ground, racking up 143 yards on 26 carries for two scores of his own. Roethlisberger finished off his evening with an even 300 yards through the air on 27/37 passing, with 2 TD and 1 INT.
The Redskins defense struggled to get off the field for the majority of the game, as the Steelers were 9/14 on 3rd down attempts, and 2/2 on 4th down conversions.
All in all, it was a night to forget for Washington. Lots more to come, but we’ll give the Hogfather the last word:
Disappointing night!!! Both sides of the ball was physically beaten!!! My grade on the OL is a F!!! DLno pressure/run over run game!!!— Joe Jacoby (@JoeJacoby66HOG) September 13, 2016
Ouch. So what did you think of the game tonight? Vote for how you would grade the Redskins performance and share your thoughts in the comments below.