After a slow start to the season, the Redskins put together a complete offensive game, running and passing the ball with equal production to earn their second victory.
Despite its uneven production over its first two games, Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins was confident last week that the team's offense was on the brink of breaking out. He mentioned the early dropped passes, mistakes and hesitations that left the team regretful but optimistic that with the right corrections a big game was in store. Eventually, those mishaps would be cleaned up.
Sunday night, on a national stage at FedExField, Cousins and the Redskins offense confirmed his belief, beating the Oakland Raiders 27-10 and providing the blueprint for how each facet should operate in unison. The attack looked clean, efficient and had the flashes of brilliance that head coach Jay Gruden had been waiting to see erupt from his quarterback and stable of weapons.
In essence, the Redskins made the plays they expected from themselves. Cousins made smart decisions with the football, completing 25-of-30 passes for 365 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. He distributed the ball to eight different receivers, using a diversity of throws to connect on reliable short and screen passes and, for the first time this season, the deep ball. He was also, for the second consecutive game, afforded a run game, which tallied 116 yards, to anchor his arm. It was enough to pile up 472 total yards and a renewed confidence in Cousins and the talent around him against a strong Oakland defense.
"You can look at the yards and say obviously I like the yards and the completion percentage, but really I think there were some decisions that Kirk made that were equally as impressive: not forcing the ball, running the ball when we had a couple of bad looks, protecting the football," head coach Jay Gruden said. "We had a third down and five and he ran it, we kicked a field goal to go up 17 – he could've forced it in there and made a bad decision. I think he really managed the game perfectly. He made some big-time throws, the receivers made some plays for him, so all around I was very impressed with the entire offense moving the ball."
The scoring started early and provided a window into the rest of the night's crisp play. Without tight end Jordan Reed in the lineup, Vernon Davis stepped up to fill the void, grabbing a 26-yard pass over the middle, beautifully placed into his outstretched hands, to convert on the first third down, which the Redskins handled 7-of-15 times Sunday night. After several small gains from running back Samaje Perine, Cousins then found Chris Thompson wide open to his left and the running back began another memorable night with a 22-yard touchdown catch and run.
Thompson would figure mightily into the offensive production again – he totaled 150 yards receiving and 38 yards rushing on the night – as would Davis, who caught Cousins's second touchdown pass, a 19-yard strike that hit him in stride to extend Washington's lead in the second quarter.
Even with its numerous setbacks – the majority of them drive-killing penalties – the offense continued to play a complete game, dominating in time of possession (the Redskins racked more than 38 minutes compared to the Raiders' 21) and feeding off the defense's continual quick stops. As Thompson said, "our defense, when they play that way, it makes the offense play even harder." Perine ran the ball for 49 yards and milked the clock throughout drives while Jamison Crowder, Ryan Grant and Terrelle Pryor Sr. all helped extending drives on third down.
The most noteworthy and electric strike came in the third quarter, when Cousins lofted a deep pass down the right sideline to wide receiver Josh Doctson, the team's first-round pick last year who was without a catch in this young season. Using all of the physical tools he has been gifted, Doctson leapt over Raiders cornerback David Amerson and grabbed the football in front of him, forcing his way into the end zone after landing for a 52-yard touchdown, the first of his career.
"Any time you start fast, you know it's up and down, plays happen, you can easily give the ball back," quarterback Kirk Cousins said. "You can have a bad decision here or there and miss the read. The fact that it was a full four quarter performance – I felt that was outstanding. All offseason I was asked, 'What are you working on, what are you trying to get better at?' The answer was situational awareness. Not just stick to my reads, but to think about how does that read change every now and then, because the game situation is changing. I think Jay [Gruden] was talking about that – looking at last year to now. By knowing how to manage situations and making decisions based on what I am coached to do and then how the game is being played."
There remain items to correct and improvements to be made. But this output was a sign that the pieces to the offensive puzzle are taking shape, moving from abstraction to clarity.
"This is what we want and I believe that's what we know we're capable of doing," Thompson said. "So we just have to continue to get better every day in practice and then come out here and execute and Coach Gruden, I've said it so many times. He just called the perfect plays. He called all the right plays and the right times and it was just on us to win our matchups. I think everybody collectively did a good job today."