After reviewing the game I’ll have more detailed analysis on players and schemes, but here is my quick take on the game. Though it will be spelled out throughout this, the Washington Redskins did a great job winning all five of my Key’s to the Game.
Stats-19 of 26 for 320 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions. Griffin also had 42 rushing yards on 10 attempts.
Robert Griffin had a tremendous game for anyone, but especially for a rookie on the road in week 1. He was extremely efficient with his passing, and did a great job of not trying to do too much for the most part. He bought time in the pocket, and showed pretty good decision making as to when to run or pass. Griffin’s speed was a factor as the Saints definitely appeared concerned with his ability to take off an run.
-Kyle Shanahan has been very maligned for his play calling the last couple of years in Washington, but he called an absolutely brilliant game. Shanahan did a great job of making things very simple for his rookie quarterback Robert Griffin. Griffin’s first six passes (all complete) were thrown behind the line of scrimmage as screen passes, a play that Griffin is the most familiar with coming from a spread attack in college. Another thing Shanahan did was allow Griffin to operate out of shotgun so much, something else that he is used too from his college days.
-Ten of the Redskins 11 offensive plays on their initial drive came out of a shotgun/pistol formation (lone exception a run by Alfred Morris). In fact 25 of the Redskins 33 offensive plays (not counting the kneel down) in the first half came from shotgun. This was a great job of putting Robert Griffin in his most comfortable position and letting his natural talents take over.
-While the 40 points were very impressive, the 70 total offensive plays may have been even more impressive. That allowed the Redskins to sustain drives and take minutes off the clock. The Redskins won the time of possession battle in every quarter, and were 39:10 for the game. They never held the ball for less than eight minutes in a quarter, and in the first and fourth quarter held it over 10 minutes. Though the defense played a very good game, The Redskins offense made perhaps the best defensive contribution, by simply keeping Drew Brees on the sideline.
-The Washington Redskins were able to dominate the time of possession by running the ball. Washington had 44 rushing plays to just 26 passing plays, which amounted to 63% of all plays. And it wasn’t just that the team ran the ball late in the game, as the Redskins had 21 rushing attempts in the first half, which accounted for 61% of this first half plays. Considering that for each of the past two seasons the Redskins run/pass ratio, has been roughly 60/40 in favor of the pass, it was an impressive show for week 1. Overall the rushing attack wasn’t highly effective as they managed just 3.5 yards per carry, but it was enough. It forced the Saints to respect it, and combined with the short passing attack, put the Redskins in a lot more favorable situations.
-Cundiff was not a popular choice for Washington Redskins fans when he was signed last week in place of Graham Gano, but he answered the call yesterday. Cundiff went 4-4 on field goals, and helped ensure that Redskins drives didn’t go to waste. Now he was kicking inside a dome, and none of the kicks were longer than 45 yards, but he got the job done. Just missing one of those kicks would have made life quite a bit easier for the Saints at the end of the game. It could have totally changed the dynamic of the game, to the point where perhaps Drew Brees wouldn’t have been throwing down field for Dejon Gomes to intercept him. Cundiff also came up big on kickoffs, with six touchbacks that helped neutralized the always dangerous Darren Sproles.
-Winning the turnover battle was huge for the Redskins defense. While Reed Doughty‘s interception sealed the game, the Redskins two other turnovers were even bigger impact plays. Cedric Griffin stripping the ball from Marques Colston near the goalline saved probably seven points, and it also set somewhat of a tone for the Redskins defense going into the 2nd half. Dejon Gomes interception with just over 3 minutes remaining, not only stopped the Saints after they had gone 58 yards in just over a minute on their previous drive, but his return set up an Alfred Morris TD run. That score put it back to a double digit lead.
-The other key for the Washington Redskins defense was their ability to take away the Saints rushing attack. Now the offense obviously helped in this regard by putting points on the board, but even early in the game the Saints couldn’t run the football. New Orleans was actually a top 10 rushing attack last season, so stopping them was no easy task, but they finished with just 10 attempts for 32 yards. This helped make the Saints offense more one dimensional, which helped the Redskins get some pressure on Brees and knock down some passes.
-A key stop for the Washington Redskins defense was late in the 3rd quarter where after a long 87 yard drive the Redskins held the Saints to a field goal, despite New Orleans having the ball 1st and goal from the 8 yard line. Now at the time the Redskins were up 30-14, so even if the Saints had scored a touchdown, Washington would have had a two possession lead, but the defense saved four point here. That meant after the Redskins added a field goal, the Saints were forced to score two touchdowns and two 2-point conversions to even tie the game. If the Saints had gotten the touchdown there, and cut it to a 9 point lead, it would have made it a much different 4th quarter.
-The blocked punt was just awful execution by the special teams unit, and with concerns about Nick Sundberg being injured this could be a shaky area all season. The Washington Redskins can’t afford to give up points on special teams, especially when their offense was so effective.
–Brandon Banks fumbling kicks. He had two fumbled returns yesterday, and while he recovered both of them, it’s a reminder of how his big play ability works both ways. While he’s capable of taking one to the house, he’s also very capable of giving the other team great field position by coughing up the ball. He’s still a double-edged sword for the Washington Redskins, and a serious concern going forward.
-Offensive line- For the most part it looked like the Washington Redskins Offensive Line did their pass blocking assignments, but they were helped greatly by the Redskins quick passing attack. They still had multiple penalties and struggled in run blocking. Though their blocking performance didn’t cost the Skins week 1, it’s hard to say with confidence that will be the case throughout the season.