Highlights from the Redskins vs. Jaguars home opener at FedEx Field on September 14, 2014.
Week 2 games in the National Football League, realistically, cannot be classified as "must wins," because teams know they still have 14 games left to make or break their seasons. But after the Washington Redskins saw just a couple crucial mistakes crumple their chances of winning Week 1 against the Houston Texans, Sunday's home opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars was about as close to a "must win" as a Week 2 game can get.
So with more than 80,000 excited fans packed into their seats for the first time all season at FedExField, the Redskins took the field Sunday afternoon with a little added pressure on their shoulders, trying to even their record at 1-1 with their first divisional game of the year looming next week at Philadelphia.
With all that in mind, it didn't take long for some additional drama to build on beautiful Sunday afternoon in Landover, Md. On the Redskins' second drive of the game, quarterback Robert Griffin III exited with a left ankle injury. A couple drives later, wide receiver DeSean Jackson went down with a shoulder injury.
But the Redskins – led by backup quarterback Kirk Cousins and a swarming defense – responded to it all, turning in a 41-10 victory over the Jaguars to give head coach Jay Gruden his first-career win, and snapping the team's nine-game regular season losing streak in the process.
Gruden becomes the fourth-straight Redskins coach to win in his home debut, and Washington improves to 30-15 in home openers since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger.
Redskins backup quarterback Kirk Cousins always talks about how he approaches every game as if he's the starter, ready to go in at a moment's notice so that the offense doesn't miss a beat should starter Robert Griffin III go down with an injury. That's exactly what happened Sunday during the Redskins' second drive of the game, when Griffin III injured his left ankle after scrambling to his right and delivering a 19-yard pass to wide receiver DeSean Jackson. With Griffin III being tended to on the sideline, Cousins came in cold off the bench, and, on his first throw of the season, delivered a 20-yard touchdown pass to a wide open fullback Darrel Young. Cousins, who is in his third year with the Redskins, is a valuable piece to the Washington offense, and proved exactly why on Sunday. With Griffin III's immediate injury status unknown, the Redskins could potentially lean on Cousins for a while.
PLAY OF THE GAME
The aforementioned Cousins touchdown pass to Young was a thing of beauty. On 2nd and 16, Cousins, lined up in the shotgun with an empty backfield. On the snap, Jacksonville cornerback Dwayne Gratz elected to cover Pierre Garcon instead of Young, who snuck wide open down the sideline into the end zone and made the easy catch, spiking the ball in excitement to the delight of the FedExField crowd. Young has become one of the best blocking fullbacks in the league the past few seasons, but has also proven to be a threat with the ball in his hands, as well. Perhaps future opponents will think twice about leaving him alone near the end zone.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Several players on the Redskins' defense showed what they were capable of Sunday vs. the Jaguars, getting 10 sacks -- a franchise record -- and picking off a pass. So on a day in which many players stood out, it's hard to pick just one, but outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan was able to take advantage of his opportunities the most. Kerrigan finished the game with a career-best four sacks of Jacksonville quarterback Chad Henne, No. 91's first four sacks of the young season. Two of the sacks came in the third quarter on back-to-back plays, forcing a Jaguars punt. The Redskins were extremely effective in getting their pass rushers free on Sunday, something they certainly hope can continue throughout the year.
UNSUNG HEROSeven plays into the Redskins' season opener last week against the Houston Texans, starting tight end Jordan Reed was knocked out of the game with a hamstring
injury. He was unable to practice all week, and head coach Jay Gruden on Friday said he would not be active for Sunday's game against the Jaguars. So the Redskins knew they'd need tight ends Logan Paulsen and Niles Paul to step up in Reed's absence, which is exactly what happened. Paulsen continued his strong play in the run game, helping open holes for running back Alfred Morris, and Paul picked up Reed's role in the passing game, hauling in eight catches for 99 yards and a touchdown against the Jaguars.
With today's 2014 FedExField opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars now in the past, the Washington Redskins turn their attention to divisional play for the first time this season.
The Redskins next Sunday travel to take on the Philadelphia Eagles for a 1 p.m. kickoff at Lincoln Financial Field.
The Eagles are 1-0 so far this season, and take on the Indianapolis Colts tomorrow night for a Monday Night Football showdown at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The Redskins have an all-time record of 81-72-5 against the Eagles, including the postseason. Washington's 81 combined wins against the Eagles are its most against any opponent. The Redskins are 40-37-2 against the Eagles all-time in Philadelphia, including postseason play.