The Redskins' 9-play, 78-yard opening drive against the Atlanta Falcons on Friday night set the tone for a 24-point first quarter and a 27-0 victory at FedExField.
After scoring only three points against St. Louis a week ago, the Redskins' starting offense sought to regain its confidence and establish some momentum heading into the regular season opener on September 12.
Friday's opening drive accomplished both of those goals.
"I was proud of our guys," head coach Joe Gibbs said. "We bounced back from a real poor performance last week and I think we were really solid."
Mark Brunell was a model of efficiency on Washington's march to the end zone. He completed 4-of-6 passes for 51 yards while demonstrating command of the offense.
"I got a lot of the work this week and maybe it transferred into a good first series," Brunell said. "Some guys made some really nice plays for me."
Running back Ladell Betts punctuated the drive with a five-yard touchdown scamper--his first of two touchdowns in the game. Betts missed significant time during the preseason with a hamstring injury and was relieved to finally make a positive impact on the field.
"I felt pretty good," Betts said. "The offensive line opened up some creases for me, and I just tried to take care of my part and get some positive yards."
Prior to Betts's touchdown, the Redskins moved the ball almost at will against Atlanta's first-team defense both on the ground and through the air. The drive began with an end-around handoff to wide receiver Rod Gardner. The play caught the Falcons off guard as Gardner scooted around the right end for 16 yards.
After Clinton Portis was held to a one-yard gain on the next play (his only carry of the game), Brunell connected with H-back Chris Cooley for an 11-yard gain and a first-down at midfield. Cooley made a leaping catch on a throw that was slightly high and behind him.
"It felt so great to know that I'm going to be the type of player on this team that [the coaches] can trust to give the ball and make plays," Cooley said.
On the ensuing first-and-10, Brunell found Coles near the right sideline for a completion. Coles juked the Falcon defender, escaped down the sideline and was pushed out of bounds after a 19-yard gain.
Brunell's next two passes were incomplete--his only blemishes of the evening. On third-and-10 from the Falcons' 31, Brunell's pass to Coles in the end zone fell incomplete. But a defensive holding penalty on Falcons' cornerback Tod McBride gave the Redskins an automatic first down.
With the offense facing first-and-10 from Atlanta's 26, Brunell found Betts in the flat for an 11-yard gain. The third-year running back outmaneuvered two Falcons with a pair of shifty moves before plunging past the first-down marker.
On the next play, Brunell threw short to Cooley in the left flat. Cooley seemed to be stopped by Falcons all-pro linebacker Keith Brooking. But the rookie out of Utah State fought through Brooking's tackle and bounced off another defender on his way to the five-yard line.
Betts applied the finishing touches on the next play with his touchdown run. He took the handoff from Brunell, headed straight for the line of scrimmage and then cut back against the grain and into the end zone.
He flicked the ball nonchalantly to the ground just after crossing the goal line. With that run, Gibbs had seen enough of most of his starters, including Brunell, Portis, Gardner and Coles. Backups came in and picked up right where the starters left off.
The Redskins looked ready for the regular season and were well on their way to closing out the preseason with a victory.