Ryan Kerrigan's postgame persona is usually "relaxed manila folder." He's among the Redskins' most popular players but also among their least expressive, at least in front of cameras. Late Sunday night, though, here came Kerrigan striding through the locker room, grinning like a school kid at recess.
"It was one of, if not the, funnest game I've ever played as a Redskin," Kerrigan said of Washington's 27-10 demolition of Oakland.
This is a guy who's been to the playoffs twice, who's been in divisional games that mattered in December. This was a nonconference game in September. And this one stood out as the most fun?
"Probably," Kerrigan said, still grinning. "I mean, start to finish, I don't know if I've been part of a game with the Redskins where we were that dominant on defense. I mean, it was a blast. And especially knowing you're doing that against one of the better teams in the league, one of the top teams in the AFC last year. And so it was really fun, yeah."
That wasn't a minority opinion Sunday night — Bashaud Breeland was virtually giggling at his locker — and it isn't crazy when you skim through past schedules. So many of this team's biggest wins in recent years have come with a "but." The Redskins routed Jacksonville early in 2014, but their starting quarterback suffered a serious injury. They notched huge wins as they marched to the playoffs in 2015, but those were either unconvincing or against poor teams. (Still fun! Just not quite the same.) They've had glorious prime time victories against divisional rivals (the Eagles in 2016, the Cowboys in 2014), but those were on the road, which isn't really as joyous. Their last appearance on Sunday Night Football looks like a lark in retrospect — an 18-point win over the Packers last year — but that was still a five-point game late in the fourth quarter.
This? This was a complete demolition. It was a kid stomping on ants. It was a car running over a Wiffle ball. It was a matchup of unequals, conducted in front of a national audience, in a game that has the potential to upend everything we thought about this season.
Kirk Cousins will struggle without his veteran receivers, or without his offensive coordinator, or when Jordan Reed misses games with injury, right? He just threw for 365 yards, three touchdowns and no turnovers while completing more than 80 percent of passes. (Only the Chiefs' Alex Smith in the season opener against the Patriots reached all those marks.)
The defense will again wrestle with its long-standing third-down demons? How's 0-for-11 sound, the first time the Redskins held an opponent without a third-down conversion in a decade and tied for the best third-down performance in team history?
The Redskins will toggle between games when either the offense or the defense lags behind? Not this time. This time, they took turns sending team officials scurrying to the record books. The offense gained 472 yards, with Chris Thompson notching the most receiving yards for a Washington running back in at least 57 years. The defense allowed 128, the fewest for the Redskins since 1992. The differential was the biggest for Washington since 1974, which means none of the Super Bowl teams ever put together a show quite like that one.
And if you want to know how fun it was for Washington, just consider how miserable it was for the Raiders. Ask Coach Jack Del Rio about the third-down misery, for example.
"It sucked," he said. "You know, getting off on third down, for a defense it gives them life and, for the other offense, it's joyful. It really is."
Or ask the Raiders players what happened.
"We just got our butt kicked," quarterback Derek Carr said.
"We got our butts handed to us today, man," lineman Donald Penn said.
And yet the final score still flattered them. Oakland only scored when Washington turned the ball over on the wrong side of the 50-yard line, and those two turnovers were probably the only plays you could quibble with over the entire contest.
That's what made this game different from so many Redskins wins of the past five or six years. There was nothing to nitpick, nothing to regret, no injuries to mourn, no key performers who failed, no coaching failures, no uncertainty, no "yeah, but." There was no need to debate Cousins's salary or the way Washington had promoted a new defensive coordinator with a mixed track record, to lament wasted draft picks (Josh Doctson!) or uncertain depth (Vernon Davis!). It was all just joy. They played one of the five or six teams that oddsmakers gave the best chances to win the Super Bowl. And they dominated.
Cousins has lately become an evangelist for a popular media talking point: The NFL is such a week-to-week league that it's almost impossible to create big-picture conclusions from single games, and he said it again Sunday night. ("It's hard to say what we are and what we aren't," he said, which is true.) The Redskins have bounced in and out of uncertainty for months, from the front-office changes to the Cousins negotiations to the poor preseason showing to the odd Su'a Cravens situation to the Week 1 disappointment.
And then came Sunday night. For the first time in a long time, it was pure good feelings without any sort of remorse. Maybe it will carry forward to Kansas City and beyond, and maybe it won't. But for one night in Landover, it would be hard for anyone associated with the Redskins to disagree with Kerrigan: This was a blast.
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