Redskins.com's Brian Tinsman takes a closer look at Sunday afternoon's Week 3 game against the Cincinnati Bengals at FedExField:
The 2012 season will be a year of firsts for quarterback Robert Griffin III, who continues to take the league by storm in his rookie season. Today was Griffin III's first regular season game in Washington, and the sold out stadium provided the perfect backdrop to his impressive FedExField debut.
There was no shortage of football drama today, as both teams played a physical yet clean contest. After managing on six yards passing in the first half, the Redskins offense nearly completed the comeback today, finishing with 381 total yards, controlling the clock for more than 32 minutes.
After two weeks of offense in the headlines, the Redskins defense deserves credit for coming alive in the second half. While the offense was busy scoring points, the defense held the Bengals to a pair of punts and forced fumble in the third quarter. The revealing moment came with 3:29 remaining in the third quarter, when cornerback Richard Crawford forced the first fumble of Bengals running back Benjarvus Green-Ellis's career. Green-Ellis held the NFL record for consecutive carries without a fumble to open his career, with 559.
PLAY OF THE GAME
The top play of the game occurred four minutes into the game, as Redskins outside linebacker Rob Jackson scooped an errant pass and fell into the end zone for the easy touchdown. Today was Jackson's first NFL start in his 29th career game, and the touchdown occurred on only the third defensive play from scrimmage.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
No Redskins player has had steadier production this year than rookie running back Alfred Morris. Morris's yardage dipped for the second-consecutive week, but he still averages nearly 90 yards and a touchdown per contest, 4.3 yards per carry. With the NFL infatuated with the aerial attack, the Redskins are maintaining a balanced offense with a productive running game.
With the offense struggling to move the ball early, Redskins punter Sav Rocca bailed the team out in the battle for field position. The Redskins solved the protection problems that plagued the punt team in Weeks 1 and 2, and Rocca averaged 44.3 yards on seven punts. He also dropped two of them inside the 20-yard line with only one touchback.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
--Replacing Orakpo: There is no question that the Redskins will miss Brian Orakpo's presence in the pass rush game, but reserves Rob Jackson and Chris Wilson provide another degree of flexibility on defense. Jackson got the start today and picked off a first-quarter pass for a touchdown. Chris Wilson answered the call, combining with Ryan Kerrigan for a sack of Andy Dalton. Jackson added an 8-yard tackle for a loss on the Bengals running back later in the first quarter. Keep in mind that this was Jackson's first career start, and Wilson spent last year unemployed.
--Alfred Morris has gotten off to a hot start to his career, providing the physical, elusive backfield runner that Shanahan craves. With each game, he looks more comfortable with the zone scheme, and showed serious toughness running without a helmet in the first quarter.
--Homecoming atmosphere: Today was only the ninth matchup between the Redskins and Bengals in series history, and Washington fans dominated the crowd at FedExField. Even after the Redskins fell behind on the first play from scrimmage, fans remained engaged in the game, creating a homecoming atmosphere. Spontaneous 'R-G-3!' chants could be heard around the stadium, as fans created a buzz in his Washington debut.
--Receiver Joshua Morgan took plenty of heat for his role in the St. Louis meltdown last week. After receiving death threats on social media this week, Morgan won his hometown fans back with a calmer demeanor after plays. Morgan's first catch was for a first down, but his celebration following the play was to simply hand the ball back to the referees. Professional football is a game of adjustments, and Morgan showed his ability to adapt.
--Finding offense on defense: For the second-consecutive week, the Redskins opened the game's scoring with a defensive touchdown, last week with Josh Wilson and this week with Rob Jackson. Jackson opened the game with a form goal-line reception for a touchdown, and Wilson recovered his second fumble in as many weeks in the third quarter.
--Rookie cornerback Richard Crawford played his way onto the Redskins with an electric preseason in the secondary. He got his first opportunity in regular season action today, and made the most of it, stripping Benjarvus Green-Ellis at the line of scrimmage, setting up a Wilson recovery and an offensive touchdown. Crawford's preseason play forged his roster spot, but his play today may have opened the door for more playing time this season.
--Tight end Fred Davis has been missing in action for most of the season, catching four passes through two games for 52 yards. He came alive in the third quarter today, catching six passes for 83 yards and leading the team on a clutch touchdown drive. He is still averaging his lowest yards-per-catch numbers since his rookie season, but Davis is at least getting opportunities in the offense again.
--The Redskins heeded the warnings of head coach Mike Shanahan this week, limiting the penalties for 55 yards. While there is still room for improvement, it is only half of the penalty yards from a week ago, and did not directly affect the outcome of the game.
WHAT WENT WRONG
--The Redskins have improved depth on the offensive line this season, but the reserve players struggled when called upon today. Jordan Black got the nod in the first half when Trent Williams left the game. It appeared that he gave up sacks on back-to-back plays, including a crushing hit on Griffin III that yielded a fumble. Griffin III didn't get much time to operate today, and the offensive line needs to keep him upright.
--The Bengals registered five enormous completions through the air today, with four of them ending in touchdowns. These plays were the difference in the game, despite holding the Bengals under 100 yards rushing. A. J. Green is an elite NFL receiver, but the Redskins secondary struggled to stop everyone today.
--Injury bug strikes on offense: While the Redskins likely dodged the bullet on major injuries, both left tackle Trent Williams and running back Evan Royster got banged up today. The Redskins have quality depth at running back, but may be in the market for other options at reserve tackle.
The Redskins go back on the road next week, tangling with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the second time in a month. The Redskins hosted the Buccaneers in this year's final preseason game, with Washington's reserve players throttling Tampa Bay 30-3. The Redskins have not played the Bucs in the regular season since 2010 and haven't played in Tampa Bay since 2007. The Redskins do not return to FedExField until Week 5, when they host another NFC South opponent in the Atlanta Falcons.
The Redskins matched up very well against the Bengals, and nearly won despite missing four projected starters. The offense and defense showed flashes of excellence and moments of confusion, typical of a young team just learning to play together.
Despite losing the home opener, the Redskins showed a lot of toughness against a physical, disciplined Bengals team that made the playoffs last season. Griffin III led the offense on three second-half scoring drives, including a touchdown each on the ground and through the air. After three games, Griffin III has seven touchdowns: four passing and three rushing, showing toughness and accuracy under pressure.
Dating back to last season, this is the NFL-leading seventh-straight loss at home, so the Redskins find comfort on the road. Griffin III and company travel to Tampa Bay in search of win No. 2 against Raheem Morris's former team. Look for another quality matchup of young quarterbacks and opportunistic defenses, as the Redskins seek a 2-1 road record.