The Washington Redskins opened the 2015 regular season at home last Sunday with a 17-10 loss to the Miami Dolphins.
What did we learn? Debatable, given the whole "sample size" thing. But two things I think we can safely surmise, at least for the moment, are:
1. That the home team did not make the transformative leap forward that fans, at least privately, once again had quietly been asking of the Gridiron Gods on yet another opening day. I admit it—when TE Jordan Reed caught that sweet fade pass from QB Kirk Cousins in the corner of the end zone, capping off a 17-play, 88-yard, 8:49 drive, and giving the Redskins a 10-0 lead late in the second quarter of a half they had dominated in the trenches, I allowed myself to look directly into the sun.
When I squinted just right, I could see a 27-10 throttling of those overrated, overhyped Dolphins, and a sweet Monday morning spent poring over local and national media stories by pundits falling all over themselves telling us how they saw it coming all along.
Ndamukong Who? The Redskins Are Back!
But ... by the time the Redskins allowed Miami to cruise easily back down the field to score an answering TD of their own in the closing minute of the half ... and after the Redskins then methodically shot themselves in the proverbial cleat enough times throughout the second half to let Miami to leave town a relieved winner ... we had learned something else:
2) That while the 2015 Redskins did not in fact open the season flying, heralding that The Corner Had Been Turned, neither did they get Obliterated or Otherwise Humiliated at the hands of the big bad Tursiops truncatus, as so many had predicted.
Which is good.
So, because the Redskins were neither awesome nor awful, and because until they become a winning team again they remain a losing one, fans are obliged to keep looking to numbers and trends, searching for arcs and developments good and bad, from which to try to glean meaning.
Thusly couched … there was good to be found.
RB Alfred Morris (25 carries, 121 yds.) ran over, through and around the Dolphins all afternoon, and after one week is the 4th leading rusher in the NFL. Even better, combined with rookie Matt Jones, the Redskins head into week two ranked third in the league in rushing.
The right side of the offensive line, featuring top rookie draft choice RG Brandon Scherff and second-year RT Morgan Moses, acquitted themselves just fine, thank you, despite apocalyptic predictions, against a Miami defensive front expected to overwhelm them.
And new defensive coordinator Joe Barry’s defense, new scheme, multiple players, missing and injured starters and all, allowed 10 points. Only one team in the NFL would have lost on opening weekend allowing just 10 points—the woebegone Jacksonville Jaguars, who scored nine in a home loss to the Carolina Panthers.
Unfortunately for the Redskins (here comes some bad stuff), NFL teams are also expected, from time to time, to field Special Teams, and the 2015 Redskins picked right up in that area where they have left off for more years than we care to recall. In a seven-point loss, the Redskins special teams directly cost the team ten points; a missed 46-yard FG under ideal conditions, and a lethal, game-deciding 69-yard punt return touchdown, straight up the middle, with nary a fingertip laid upon grateful Dolphins return man Jarvis Landry.
Not to rub salt in the wound, but the 17 total points surrendered by the Redskins would have been enough to win any game played in the NFL opening weekend … except for the one they actually played in. Which is a roundabout way of saying that scoring 10 points just is not going to get it done.
The offense moved the ball (349 total yards), but could not score—an all-too-familiar formula.
Special teams, once again, were an albatross with an anvil tied around its ankle (assuming albatri have ankles).
And the aforementioned defense, while playing well enough to limit Miami to 10 points, left seven points on the field as well, as a sure pick-six interception somehow defied physics and passed through new starting CB Chris Culliver into the surprised and relieved hands of a beaten Dolphins receiver.
Bottom line? The good stuff could not overcome the bad stuff, and the 0-1 Redskins head into week two, against a St. Louis Rams team fresh off beating the two-time defending NFC Champion Seattle Seahawks, knowing that, but for a blown play here and there, they could be 1-0 and handing out sunglasses.
Instead, Rebirth will have to wait another week.
Meanwhile, until we have something more uplifting (and by that I mean winning) to talk about, we’ll start tracking some of the more relevant stats here that, over the course of a season, more often than not support the “winning team” versus “losing team” formula when all is said and done.
Kirk Cousins: 21 for 31 (67.7%), 196 yds., 1 TD, 2 INT (21st yds., 29th QB rating)
1 takeaway, 2 turnovers (-1, T20th NFL)
Third Down Conversions
Offense – 6 for 14 (43%, 15th NFL)
Defense – 5 for 12 (42%, 14th NFL)
Happy Birthday, Dad!