- Let’s get right to it: Happy Victory Monday, y’all! This is the earliest Victory Monday we have seen since the dewy days of 2012, and the first we have seen with Jay Gruden on the sidelines. I am so ready for all the haters and naysayers out there who want to label this game so many things that are just...simply...wrong. I mean, for a fanbase that has seen so few examples of winning in dominant style, we have a ridiculous propensity to crap all over our own enjoyment. The ability for that one or two guys on every Redskins text chain each of us is on to blow this performance off was tough to stomach. It was like instead of seeing one team emasculate the other, some fans saw a t-shirt with Russell in the fore and the rest of the band out-of-focus...and it allowed them to say all the things they wanted to say. We can get into the things that both insiders and outsiders are saying about this Redskins team one week into the season, and we can argue about how much you can ever reasonably expect going forward based on one game...but at its most core, baseline essence: week one was a success. That is a fundamental truth, and as such, it is worthy of basing at least something on today.
- Openers and even some games coming-out-of-the-bye have been ummmm...an issue for Redskins fans during Jay Gruden’s tenure. As someone who uses every pixel I can find to proclaim this the Year of Jay Gruden, I would have had to bunker down pretty hard had this team not shown up against Arizona. Luckily for me, for Jay Gruden and for every fan who is holding that ‘Over’ ticket for total Redskins wins, Washington dominated. Winning week one is just so key to having an above average season, and the joy associated with getting out of the gate strong is and should be through the roof. Those who would sleep on that because “it was just against Arizona” are missing the point. We have been—very recently—the team opponents beat but say “it was just against Washington.” The Redskins have plenty to prove, trust me. One thing they had to prove was that they could hit the ground running in the way they haven’t done in years. Check.
- Turnovers, penalties, turnovers, insane broken plays and turnovers all have worked to destroy the NFL Opening Week experience for us Redskins fans recently. What a great day it is, though...especially when you get to watch all those early games ahead of watching your team go. I had the chance to watch a LOT of the early games, spreading my eyes across multiple screens and feasting on the delicious buffet. I saw teams hurt themselves badly with untimely mistakes. It was impossible not to observe the Redskins playing almost mistake-free ball for much of the contest—while it was still a contest. I hated the late Adrian Peterson fumble, but the manner in which he made them physically pay for the ball at a moment in the game when it was too late for Arizona helped. The Skins were on the right side of the turnover ratio and though it seemed as if the Arizona Cardinals were their own worst enemy in terms of penalties, that facet of the game ended up being pretty even as both teams had nine penalties for roughly 65 total yards each. The Redskins have “almost won” plenty of their openers in recent seasons, until Carson Wentz turned a surefire sack into a bomb touchdown pass, or Jarvis Landry broke down punt coverage for a game-deciding return touchdown, or Alfred Blue blocked a punt and took it back for the score, or...you get the picture. Opponents have earned their wins against us (Pittsburgh and Philly especially), but the Redskins have played poorly in week one. Quiet Competence (my mantra for this team throughout August) can be a kingmaker if you weave it firmly enough into your foundation. Check.
- Okay...we can all likely agree that it at least appears that 2018 could be a long year for the Arizona Cardinals. They were uninspiring. Sam Bradford could be the world’s greatest unmotivational speaker...ever. You could have recorded the sound of grass growing inside that stadium yesterday it was so quiet. Not for nothing, but few know that feeling of “the-things-my-eyes-are-seeing-are-paralyzing-my-ability-to-make-any-sound” than the FedEx Field faithful. STILL, any team that lines up David Johnson in the backfield expects to get more than 68 yards rushing. After a preseason in which the Cardinals defense took the ball away a staggering 715 times (someone check that stat), Arizona had to believe it could thwart a pair of veteran 33-year olds debuting in burgundy and gold. I refuse to buy into any kind of argument that “the Redskins beat nobody.” Further, it wasn’t a close decision against...whoever the Cardinals are. Washington more than doubled Arizona’s total yards. Washington almost doubled Arizona’s time of possession. Washington more than doubled Arizona’s total first downs. It was a drubbing. Unless and until the Cardinals go 0-16, this win can very easily be attributed to the things the winner did right, and not the things the loser did wrong. The Redskins were—throughout the game—the reason why the Cardinals failed. I don’t think that’s being too “homery” at all. Alex Smith completed 70% of his passes. Our defense held the Cards to 1-for-8 on third downs. We converted a fourth down...WITH A QUARTERBACK SNEAK!! (You didn’t think I was going to forget to bring that up did you?) To be honest, the competence was really not all that quiet...my ears are still ringing.
- As we work through the task of figuring out what we can legitimately learn from week one, let’s make sure to look in places away from the scoreboard. Our 2017 second-round pick, Ryan Anderson, got a sack and played some pretty good minutes for Greg Manusky’s defense—while also lead-blocking for Adrian Peterson on a touchdown run. I am always looking for return on investment from recent top picks, and that is a promising sign from the Alabama product. Quinton Dunbar, a corner the Redskins will need production from this season...produced. Linebackers made plays everywhere, and guess what was a major reason for that? The Redskins defensive line played great, as advertised. Finally, when it was winning time, when there was still enough ticks of the clock left for Arizona to scrape their way back into the affair, the Redskins closed the door. The Redskins did NOT find a way to lose. The Redskins did NOT succumb to some improbable series of moments that lead to the hottest of seats.
- I made the case that week one of the 2018 season was to be the most pivotal game for the Washington Redskins. In losing, the drudgery of the past would have mucked up the path forward. It would have justified that faint but present voice in our fanbase that “knows” we are simply never going to be good again. A loss would have buried us in the terribleness of the same exact conversation we have been having for years, with names changing from Griffin to Cousins, or from Shanahan to Gruden, or from Cerrato to Allen to McLovin to Allen. Losing reinforces a loser mentality. The Redskins needed a win. The Redskins fanbase needed a win. We look in the mirror and we see winners. We don’t think it is so absurd to believe a player like Alex Smith is well inside his prime. We don’t pretend to want anything more out of Adrian Peterson than he is willing and able to give us, and we think it could be enough. We don’t see why it so hard to look at Jonathan Allen and Da’Ron Payne and the army behind them and see anything less than a top defense. But wins reinforce those things. Only wins can reinforce a winning mentality. And oh boy did it get reinforced yesterday!
(Gonna be a fun night tomorrow night on The Audible. Join us live through Hogs Haven’s Facebook Live feature tomorrow at around 9/9:15 PM EST.)