Entering Sunday's season opener in Arizona, the Redskins had plenty of uncertainties regarding some of their primary playmakers. How many snaps would Adrian Peterson receive? How would Chris Thompson respond to contact in his first game returning from injury? How would the offense flow under Alex Smith's leadership?
Those questions were answered quickly.
Peterson achieved multiple milestones in the midst of collecting 166 total yards, Thompson combined for 128 total yards, Smith distributed the football with ease, and the team rolled to a 24-6 victory over the Cardinals at State Farm Stadium.
"The worries went away, and maybe it was adrenaline or something, but today was really the best that I felt ever since my injury, and I was able to go out there and make some plays," Thompson said.
"It felt good to see a lot of runs in there and knowing I had the opportunity to contribute, and that's what I want to do," Peterson said.
Contribute might sound like an understatement. From cornerback Josh Norman's eyes, which saw the majority of the first half from the sideline thanks to sustained offensive drives, Peterson looked "so youthful." Within the first quarter alone, he racked up 43 yards, enough to pass Jim Brown on the all-time rushing yards list, moving into 10th place.
"It means a lot, you know," Peterson said. "I have a lot of support that keeps me going, keeps me motivated as well. Not only do I do it for myself and for my family, but I do it for my fan base as well."
Not long after, the Redskins finished the drive with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Thompson, who had already shown a return to form on two runs that earned first downs and totaled 27 yards. It was Thompson's first touchdown since Week 12 of last year, before the leg injury that ended his season.
"Yeah that touchdown play was just a great call by Coach Gruden," Thompson said. "What we like to call a snag route, and most teams are used to me running choice routes, which I'll break inside, you know, it's either choice for me to break inside, break out. But the snag route is one of those things where I break inside, make it look like I'm going for the in-cut, and then break it back out. And I kind of felt Deone Bucannon, he kind of bit a little bit when I broke inside, and then I just whipped it back out and Alex just got me the ball. Was able to make a good play and you know, get us some point on the bar."
The Redskins continued a similar formula on the next drive, converting on fourth down around midfield thanks to a Smith quarterback sneak. That opened up a new set of downs and short passing opportunities – including some runs from Rob Kelley – that drove the Redskins to the three-yard line, where Peterson punched in a one-yard touchdown on third down.
It was Peterson's 100th career touchdown, tying him for seventh on the all-time list. That gave the Redskins a 14-0 lead and finished a drive that lasted 15 plays, traveled 73 yards and more than nine minutes long.
"You have to set the tempo," Peterson said. "That's one thing I've always done and a mindset I want to bring to this team. You know every play, relentless. So some opportunities I had I was able to lower my shoulder and set the tempo, show the guys that 'Hey this is what I'm going to bring every time I touch it.' You can see it spread, not only on the offensive side of the ball but defensively too."
The two runnning backs fed off each other throughout the game -- "thunder and lightning," as tight end Jordan Reed called it.
"[Peterson] came to me and told me that I was the spark for him, and you know that just in itself got me excited and continued to have me push on and continue to make plays cause he told me he was kind of feeding off my energy," Thompson said. "It's just great to have a guy like that, just for him being in the league for so long."
The Redskins continued to have ongoing drives, eating up the clock thanks to the short and intermediate passing game. Thompson continued to provide more looks for the opponent -- even taking a screen after being lined up outside – and Peterson got involved in the pass game, too, grabbing two passes and turning them into a combined 70 yards.
That helped Smith as he occasionally scrambled in the pocket and the defense was forced to have linebackers keep more eyes on the backfield. It's a combination that the Redskins can only now see becoming a foundation.
"I feel like the sky's the limit," Peterson said. "Alex is doing a great job of running the offense, and for the past couple of weeks I've seen these receivers really go out at practice and grind. Like I say, the offensive line speaks for itself. And then you add CT in there, you know that young guys got me going today. And Kelly comes in, he does a great job…You know, the sky's the limit for us."