Here's five takeaways from the Washington Redskins' Week 15 game against the Arizona Cardinals that took place at FedExField in Landover, Md.
1. On an afternoon that featured a heavy dosage of the Cardinals offense, it was the Redskins' defense who had the upper-hand in the battle.From the get-go on Sunday afternoon, Washington's defensive unit caused problems for a Blaine Gabbert-led offense.
On the opening drive of the game, the Redskins forced a fumble off Gabbert before Washington's offense took advantage of the turnover two plays later with a touchdown to Jamison Crowder.
It was the start of an afternoon in which the Redskins held the Cardinals out of the end zone.
"That was the game. The story of the day," said Redskins head coach Jay Gruden. "[The Cardinals'] red zone offense against out red zone defense. The ability for us not to give up the big play and keep them out of the end zone."
Late in the game, the Cardinals had a chance to win the game despite being having kicked just five field goals in a 20-15 contest.
Arizona got the ball back with less than two minutes left in the game. The final drive would also start just two yards shy of midfield, giving Gabbert and Co. a prime position to potentially score their first touchdown of the game.
The Cardinals would even get inside the Redskins' 20-yard line due mostly to two penalties on Washington's defense.
But as was the case throughout the drive, the Redskins held strong in pass protection, knocking down a fourth down throw to end the game. In total, Gabbert was 0-of-6 on the drive.
"When things are not going your way, you just kind of want to bend but not break," said linebacker Junior Galette. "Anytime they go down there, they went down there five times and only put up three points. That's 15 points, so we're in good shape with the quarterback and a good offense. We just helped each other today."
2. In the best outing of his nascent career, Anthony Lanier II dominated the Cardinals' offense.Perhaps no player was more dominant for Washington's defense on Sunday than Anthony Lanier II, who was all over the place with two sacks and a fumble forced. He also had three timely passes defensed.
Within the first minute of the game, on Arizona's opening drive, Lanier sacked Cardinals quarterback Blaine Gabbert to force a fumble, setting up the Redskins for a scoring drive and consequent early lead. The defensive lineman came up with a second sack on a Cardinals third down, ultimately holding Arizona to a field goal to wrap up the first quarter.
Lanier delivered with another key play at the end of the second quarter with a pass defensed in the red zone on an Arizona third down, forcing the Cardinals to kick for a field goal to end the first half. He produced a second pass defensed in the third quarter on another Arizona third down, causing the Cardinals' offense to punt. On Arizona's final drive, Lanier logged his third pass defensed, helping to solidify the win in Washington.
The Alabama A&M product entered the league in 2016 as a college free agent for the Redskins, where he appeared in four games recording one forced fumble. Injuries and position moves in 2017 opened up a spot for Lanier on the defensive line and has given him an opportunity to impress.
"It was great to hear Anthony Lanier's name over the intercom a few times and see how far he has come along from a young rookie free agent," Gruden said. "He is getting better and better. The sky is the limit for him."
3. Despite a relatively limited workload, Trent Williams was efficient.
With the Cardinals attempting 80 offensive plays, the Redskins conversely possessed the ball for just 47 offensive plays on Sunday afternoon for less than 24 minutes.
In fact, midway through the second quarter the Redskins had run just nine offensive plays on three drives.
But Cousins wasn't fazed by his few appearances, as Washington's starting quarterback finished the game 18-of-26 for 196 yards with two touchdowns to no interceptions with a quarterback rating of 116.8.
It was the first time in four weeks that Cousins finished a game without throwing an interception.
"Winning in this league is the greatest of feelings and we worked so hard all week, all year, and it's great to get a win in front of our home crowd and they cheer us on to victory," Cousins said. "There are so many reasons we were able to come out with a victory today and we appreciate the way the defense stood up time and again to give us a chance."
Cousins, however, said that the offense as a whole needs to be better on third downs, as the Redskins were just 1-of-9 in the situation.
It's a trend that has plagued the Washington throughout the season.
"I've been frustrated with third downs this year," Cousins said. "We were a top five team in the NFL the last two years on third downs, so that's really been a major struggle for us and yet today, 1-for-9. We just haven't been good enough all year to sustain drives, and didn't have a lot of explosive plays today for whatever reason so there's plenty of things you go back and say we could've, should've done more.
"But it was that kind of game too where you had to play conservative at times, protect the football when your defense is playing well, when you have the lead and also the clock is running out."
4. A new face added to the mix, Kapri Bibbs makes a strong first impression.Bibbs' 36-yard touchdown reception from Cousins in the second quarter completed a five-play, 63-yard drive by the Redskins' offense. The running back's scoring play highlighted a day in which he had four total receptions for 47 yards.
Bibbs originally joined the team in November on the practice squad after spending time with the Denver Broncos from 2014-16. Since signing with the Redskins, he has been determined to make a difference on the Washington offense.
Called up to the active roster last week, he did just that.
"All week I've been working with the guys and we've all been working hard in practice…," Bibbs said. "I'm happy to be able to contribute to the team and just be able to have an impact on the game."
Gruden also appreciates Bibbs' contribution to the team's win and applauds him for capitalizing on key opportunities.
"He ran a great screen pass, weaved his way through traffic and got a touchdown, drew another holding call on another screen pass, and had a couple of other catches for us that were quite significant," Gruden said. "So, [I'm] happy for Kapri. [I'm] glad he got his opportunity and took advantage of it."
5. With Trent Williams not quite healthy enough to play this week, the Redskins had another new offensive line combination.
By Cousins' account, Sunday's group of starting offensive linemen was the 26th different combination the Redskins have had to use on a season marred by injuries.
Check out the photos of Redskins players and coaches after the Week 15 victory.
While the Redskins were able to return rookie center Chase Roullier to the lineup after he missed the last three games with a fractured hand injury, Williams was sidelined for the first time since Thanksgiving.
In his place, the Redskins shifted Ty Nsekhe back to left tackle while Arie Kouandjio got the nod at left guard once again.
In total, the Redskins allowed just one sack.
"There were some good moments where we looked pretty good, there were some moments where we didn't look so good," Roullier admitted. "But when it comes down to it, we got the win and we did enough to win the game. That's really what it comes down to."
As for Williams, the team will take it day-by-day with the Pro Bowler, although if there's a chance he can play – even if it's the slightest of possibilities – the Redskins will keep him active.
"I think that with me, if there is a one percent chance that Trent can play, I will leave him up, just in case you get that one percent. But we will readdress the situation on Monday," Gruden said. "Talk to the doctor and talk to Trent. If he's going to have surgery or something like that then we'll put him down. But if there's a chance then I will keep him up."