Recapping the best and worst elements of Washington’s 28-14 season-opening win over the New York Giants.
Best Play: Ryan Kerrigan’s pass rush/deflection/interception/return for a third-quarter touchdown gave the Redskins their first lead, made fans stand up for much of the remainder of the game and showed every clichéd attribute the talking heads have mouthed about Kerrigan for months. Guess he really does have a good motor. And is relentless. And never quits on a play. And just keeps coming. And probably eats Wheaties and drinks Apple Pie smoothies and shaves with Valvoline. Kerrigan was the first Redskins rookie to return an INT for a touchdown since Champ Bailey in October 1999.
Best Play, Part II: Down a touchdown late in the third quarter, the Giants went for it on 4th-and-1 from the Redskins’ 31. They didn’t get it. Former Giant Barry Cofield — who some wondered if was too small to play nose — was all in the middle of the jumbled line that stopped Ahmad Bradshaw.
Best Play, Part III: Brian Orakpo blocking that third-quarter Lawrence Tynes field-goal try was the sort of play that made that little pea-sized nectar of hope in your gall bladder grow by another millimeter or so. Winning teams block field goals. Losing teams run the Swinging Gate on field goals.
Worst Play: Any play involving Reed Doughty in pass coverage.
(Note: This was rude, and I regret it. Just felt like it for a minute there. Sorry, though.)
Worst Play, Part II: The back-to-back sacks of Rex Grossman as the third quarter was winding down cost the Redskins 23 yards and destroyed what could have been a game-clinching drive.
Worst Play, Part III: Bad Rex, Bad Rex, Bad Rex. Getting sacked is one thing, but when Grossman coughed up the ball early in the fourth quarter, the Giants wound up with the ball on the 20-yard line. Those are the classically wretchedly skin-peeling Rex Grossman plays that make you forget all the good stuff. At least until the next Good Rex moment.
Best Quarterback on the Field: For all that, it was Grossman. By a mile. His QB rating was 110.5. Eli Manning’s was 70.8. Out in San Diego, Donovan McNabb’s was 47.9. Ben Roethlisberger turned in a 52.9. Matt Ryan managed a 76.5. I don’t care how silly the stat is, those are some large differences.
Best Leg: My colleague Mike Jones reported that Tim Hightower, fresh off making a 40-yard field goal during pre-game exercises a week ago, drilled a 50-yarder this time around.
Worst Leg: The Redskins’ actual kicker, on the other hand, returned to his inaccurate ways. Graham Gano was one of the least accurate place kickers throughout the 2010 season, and after hitting every kick he attempted in the preseason, he pushed a 39-yarder wide right in the first quarter. I don’t have time to run the stats right now, but I believe this is the 342nd consecutive Redskins game that contained a severe special-teams problem.
Best Break: The pre-game news that Giants’ defensive end Justin Tuck would be sitting meant the team’s two most prominent defensive linemen were both shelved. Not to be rude, but the offensive line hasn’t always been Washington’s strength, and even without Tuck and Osi Umenyiora, Grossman was sacked four times.
Worst Substitution: And yet the LaRon Landry injury may have been equally significant. The game’s first big play, that 68-yard Eli Manning strike to a thoroughly open Hakeem Nicks, had a lot of Doughty in it. The Giants scored on their next snap. On the Giants’ second touchdown, Doughty missed a tackle. Before the end of the first half, “Reed Doughty” was trending on Twitter, the only Redskins player so honored when I checked.
Best Transition: The Chris Cooley Era may be winding down, but the Fred Davis Era appears to be off to a rollicking start. The fourth-year tight end, whom Michael Lombardi recently described as a “perfect fit” for Mike Shanahan’s offense, caught 5 balls for 105 yards, including a huge catch late in the fourth quarter. It was Davis’s first-career 100-yard day. Cooley had just two catches, and still appeared hobbled.
Fashion Interlude, Fashion Interlude, Fashion Interlude
Best Pants: The gold came back, on the legs of the Redskins. Remains a classic and beautiful look. “Immaculate,” as ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt wrote on Twitter during the first quarter.
Best Socks: During pre-game warm-ups, Orakpo had some fancy striped burgundy-and-gold circus leggings. Special. In a non uniform-obsessed NFL, the socks would be a wonder to behold.
Best T-Shirt Worn By an International Superstar: Alex Ovechkin, representing Nike with a Brasil World Cup number.
Worst Start: The Redskins offense came around, but the first two possessions went short run, short run, incompletion, punt, and then incompletion, incompletion, incompletion, punt. Although actually, Eli Manning may have bottomed that by starting 3-for-11 passing, with several balls that seemed intended for these really awesome expanses of FedEx Field grass.
Best Decision: Mike Shanahan going for it all the way on 4th-and-5 early in the second quarter. The offense to that point had as much forward momentum as Reed Doughty running up a greased mountain while wearing a parka. Then Grossman completed a 10-yard pass to Santana Moss, and the Redskins went on to score their first points of the season on a Tim Hightower touchdown run.
Best Stat: Washington was flagged for three penalties, and had just one turnover. Glorious, glorious numbers, representing fair play and justice and all that is right in the universe. Oh, and Rex Grossman was the quarterback.
Worst Stat: Brian Murphy noted before the game that the Giants had outscored the Redskins, 47-0, in the first quarters of their previous six games. Sunday’s 7-0 first-quarter result makes it 54-0 over seven games.
Best Unheralded Rookie: How about nose tackle Chris Neild? The big names this summer were glamour guys like Leonard Hankerson, who was inactive, and Roy Helu, who was a non-factor. But Neild — a seventh-round pick who Thom Loverro has dubbed “The Pocono Punisher” — had a sack and a half. For production-by-draft-slot, you can’t beat that.
Worst Use of a Baltimore Tradition: I try not to spend too much time warbling about the “O” shouted out during the national anthem at Caps and Redskins game. Some people grew up with it, and some D.C. sports fans live close to Baltimore, and whatever. But this seemed kind of like a solemn and contemplative version of the national anthem, and this “O” felt tacky at best.
Best Multi-cultural Shout-out: Get ready to hear a Spanish-language version of “Hail to the Redskins” in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month next week. For real.
Worst Tackling: The Giants’ second scoring drive went 8 plays and 85 yards, but the final two were the most demoralizing. First Brandon Jacobs trucked his way for 14 yards through the center of the Washington defense. Then Bradshaw scored from six yards out, with Doughty whiffing on that final tackle.
Best Connection: The two prettiest passes from either team may both have been throws from Grossman to Anthony Armstrong. The first went for 18 yards yards, and involved full-out airborne extension from Armstrong. Then Grossman leapfrogged Armstrong’s head in the end zone. The second, late in the second quarter, faded for six yards and an exquisite touchdown in the corner of the end zone. Not bad for a third receiver.
Best Pre-Game Dismissal of a Lawsuit Against a Newspaper: I’ll let you choose.
Best Start: Who knows what happens next. But for the second straight year, the Redskins opened the season with a home win over a favored NFC East rival. There are worse ways to go into a work week.