Kevin Jones. 15th September, 2011 - 10:41 am
Mike Shanahan is only in his second season with the Washington Redskins, but he shares a common bond with the franchise. Sunday's defeat of the New York Giants improved Shanahan's overall record in season openers to 14-4, while the Redskins improved their home opener record at Fed Ex Field to 11-4. The 28-14 victory over the Giants felt different than many previous season opening wins in recent memory.
Think last year.
The Redskins were under the center stage on NBC's Sunday night game. It was the Dallas Cowboys who fell 13-7 at the hands of a DeAngelo Hall fumble recovery for a touchdown. That win for the Redskins was an offensive slopfest where the team netted just 250 total yards. Dallas also committed 12 penalties, including one on the last play of the game which reversed what would have been the winning touchdown.
With Donovan McNabb at the helm, it looked like the Redskins would at least be Wild Card contenders, and certainly not bottom-dwellers in the NFC.
The offense and defense finally clicked together for possibly the first time since 2008.
Why this win was so impressive
It was easily the largest margin of victory in the Shanahan-era, and the most points (28) scored in a win. Each Redskin win in 2010 was decided by six points or less and three of those wins came in overtime. Rookie Ryan Kerrigan assisted to that total by returning a tipped interception 10 yards to spark the Redskins early in the third quarter.
The Giants came into the game having won six straight and nine out of the last ten meetings against the Redskins. Even with all of their injuries, nearly every expert was still picking the Giants. In return New York laid down, especially on the third downs (1/10).
It's quite easy to tell that Shanahan now trusts his defense. The example that led me to believe this was midway through the second quarter when the Redskins went for it on a fourth-and-five on the Giants 37 yard line. New York led 7-0 and kicker Graham Gano had already pushed one field goal to the right. The Redskins needed a touchdown for momentum purposes. Rex Grossman was able to deliver a 10 yard strike to Santana Moss that ultimately setup a Tim Hightower touchdown. A punt in that situation may have changed everything.
The defensive line seemed like a reincarnation of the 2007 New York Giants. Okay, they weren't that great, but for Redskins standards it was an incredible sight to witness. Eli Manning was flustered for majority of the afternoon and outside of a 68-yard bomb to Hakeem Nicks, Manning didn't do much.
Who was so impressive
Rex Grossman: 21/34, 305 yards, 2 TD's, 1 fumble lost
Grossman now has four 300-yard games in his career and three of them have come with the Redskins. He particularly found a rapport with tight end Fred Davis who hauled in six catches for 105 yards. Grossman was excellent on intermediate routes over the middle of the field. Even with all of those injuries, not many people expected Grossman to pick apart the Giants.
Chris Neild: 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble
It was shocking when the Redskins announced Neild (the 253rd pick of the draft) had made the roster as a rotational nose tackle over the veteran Anthony Bryant. The coaching staff's investment into Neild's motor paid dividends last Sunday, displaying the depth the defensive line now has.
Tim Hightower: 25 carries, 72 yards, 1 TD
Hightower set the tone in the first half, having 11 carries for 46 yards at one point. The Giants were forced to key in on his bruising run style which opened the door or underneath passes. It was Hightower's pass blocking that caught my eye though. As of right now, he seems to be an every down back.
Who wasn't so impressive
Reed Doughty: 10 tackles
Doughty found himself out of position on several occasions including the 68-yarder noted above to Nicks, as well as a 41-yarder to the Giants sluggish tight end Jake Ballard. If for some reason LaRon Landry can't go this week, the Redskins should start rookie DeJon Gomes. There is no way he could be worse than Doughty.
The Offensive Line: 4 Sacks allowed
What is particularly troubling is that both Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck were sidelined. Trent Williams was completely owned by Jason Pierre-Paul numerous times including a late third quarter play in which Pierre-Paul forced a key fumble that nearly put the Giants back in the game.
Chris Cooley: 2 catches, 21 yards
Cooley has just two 100-yard games in his seven-year career. Cooley is reliable when you need six yards, but his days as a starter could be winding down if Fred Davis continues this kind of big play production.
Who is next
We will all find out whether Cam Newton's 422 yard passing performance against the Cardinals was rather fluky. The Arizona secondary took a major hit when Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was dealt to Philadelphia for Kevin Kolb. Rookie Patrick Peterson was burned up and down the field and his counterpart at cornerback AJ Jefferson has just three career starts. Expect a bunch of deep throws early on from Grossman.
Tim Hightower will have extra motivation this week to perform against the team who traded him for 35-year-old backup defensive lineman Vonnie Holliday.
How will DeAngelo Hall fare against Larry Fitzgerald? The new 100-million-dollar-man only had three receptions for 62 yards last week against a shaky Panthers secondary. He could be due for a big game.