Reporting Grant Paulsen
The Redskins are 2-0 for the first since 2007, thanks to a 22-21 victory of the Arizona Cardinals at FedEx Field. Washington is now 8-1 against Arizona at FedEx.
Graham Gano connected on a 34-yard field goal with 1:50 remaining in the game. The game-winning field goal was the fourth of Gano’s career and his first since Dec. 26, 2010 in Jacksonville.
With the victory, Mike Shanahan moved in to sole possession of 15th place on the NFL’s all-time coaching wins list. His 162 wins are one more than Bill Cowher, who he had tied for 15th-place last week.
The following random thoughts are just things that jumped out at me as I look over the stat packet from today’s 22-21 over the Cardinals:
3rd down defense: The Redskins held the Cardinals to three conversions on nine third-down attempts. Jim Haslett will take that 33 percent clip on third-down every week. Washington has allowed just four third-down conversions on 19 attempts in two games now. This can’t be talked about enough.
Moving the chains on 4th down: Mike Shanahan said that going for fourth-and-three from the 18 yard-line was a “no brainer” and that his decision was “basic football.” I disagree. I think he could have elected to kick a field goal and tried to get the ball back. (The Redskins had three timeouts left and there was 5:23 remaining in the game). But the decision to keep the offense on the field resulted an an 18-yard touchdown pass to Santana Moss. I think it was a hell of a decision by Shanahan, who has rolled the dice on key fourth-down conversions in each of Washington’s two wins.
Redskins running game: Washington ran for 172 yards, averaging 4.9 yards-per-carry a week after averaging under three-yards a pop. Tim Hightower did the heavy lifting in the first half, finishing with 96 yards on 20 attempts (a 4.8-yard average). Roy Helu served as Washington’s closer, rushing 10 times for 74 yards. A week after participating in just two plays, the rookie tailback had 13 touches and amassed 112 all-purpose yards. Helu’s speed was as obvious as Hightower’s power. Don’t be surprised if you start to see Kyle Shanahan game-plan some plays designed for Helu in Washington’s passing game. The more chances he gets with the ball in space, the more big plays he’s going to make.
Linebakers get home: A week after not register a sack, Washington’s linebacking core combined for three sacks and five hits on quarterback Kevin Kolb. Brian Orakpo posted his first sack since week-12 last season and forced a fumble for the first time since week-six of 2010. Ryan Kerrigan recorded his inaugural NFL sack and Rocky McIntosh added one as well. London Fletcher, the only starting linebacker who didn’t pick up a sack for the Redskins, did have a team-best two quarterback hits and three pressures of Kevin Kolb. He also intercepted a pass.
Rex Grossman throws two picks: Grossman’s first interception was a bad pass. He forced an ill-advised toss into coverage, over-shooting Santana Moss on a third down play that wouldn’t have resulted in a first down anyway. There’s never been a good interception but turning the ball over near your opponent’s goal line is inexcusable. Arizona’s second interception came on a pass batted into the air by Anthony Armstrong. Generally when a receiver knocks a ball up into the air between the hashes, bad things are going to happen.
Redzone Issues: The Redskins got inside Arizona’s 20 yard-line seven times and scored just two touchdowns. You can’t do that and win in the National Football League. The next time the Redskins squander five redzone opportunities they will lose.
Time of possession: The Redskins had the ball for exactly 17 more minutes than the Cardinals did. What a monster discrepancy. Makes you wonder what might have been without the two interceptions and Graham Gano’s blocked field goal attempt.
Cardinals seeing yellow: Arizona was penalized 10 times compared to just three flags being thrown on Washington. The Cardinals were -82 in penalty yardage and twice extended concluding Redskins’ drives with defensive penalties.
Fred Davis: Targeted seven times and caught six passes. Chris Cooley was targeted just twice and didn’t catch a single pass. Davis’ 86 yards led the Redskins in receiving, the second straight week he’s posted the team-high in that category.
Brandon Banks: Did a very nice job returning punts. Averaged 18.3 yards per punt return (four for 73 yards), breaking one 35-yards to help reverse the field position game. Banks was close to taking a couple punts all the way back. He’s a weapon, and it feels like it won’t be long before he’s dancing in the endzone again.
Rocky McIntosh: Tallied a team-high eight tackles and recorded his first sack of the 2011 season. McIntosh also defended a pass.