Sunday’s home opener at FedEx Field began with the gut-wrenching yet familiar sight of Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III crumpled on the field, painfully grasping at his left ankle. By the game’s final two minutes, things had taken an uncharacteristic turn for the better when Ryan Kerrigan broke through Jacksonville’s blockers for his fourth and final sack.
Kerrigan then broke out of his reserved shell by flexing his muscles as the crowd savored the Redskins’ 41-10 victory.
It was the first time Kerrigan had four sacks in the NFL and even more time had passed — 37 years — since the Redskins had sacked an opposing quarterback 10 times in one game. The unprecedented effort called for an unprecedented act by the fourth-year linebacker; and his celebrations served as one of several in a line of sack dances worthy of “Soul Train.”
“We were joking on the sideline like, ‘Who’s going to be next [to get a sack]?’ ” Kerrigan said. “It was such a great feeling, unlike anything I’ve been a part of, getting that many sacks and playing the type of defense we played.”
Long before what proved to be an injury-plagued Sunday across the NFL, Washington’s defense had already suffered a blow: Starting nose tackle Barry Cofield was placed on the short-term injured reserve list, meaning he would miss at least eight weeks with a high-ankle sprain suffered in last week’s loss to Houston.
To compensate, Chris Baker slid into the middle of the three-man front and Jarvis Jenkins started at left end.
Initially, however, the Jaguars chose to test Washington’s secondary: Quarterback Chad Henne dropped back to pass on each of his team’s first four plays.
That approach ignited Redskins defensive end Jason Hatcher; twice in the first half he sacked Henne on third down.
Overall, the Jaguars went three-and-out on their first four possessions.
“It seemed like every time Henne dropped back, Hatcher was back there,” Kerrigan said. “It’s kind of crazy to me because normally, defensive tackles aren’t getting a ton of pressure.”
Any notion the Jaguars would be able to establish the run against a short-handed defense was snuffed by the Redskins’ productive offense, even after Griffin and DeSean Jackson were knocked out of the game for good.
“It was tough, and it goes back to not being able to run the football,” said Henne, whose team rushed for just 25 yards on 10 carries . “They were spoiling our routes in this quick game and [we] couldn’t get the ball off in the deep passing game, so [I] give them credit.”
Baker continued that trend to start the second half. On Jacksonville’s first play, he stuffed Toby Gerhart for a two-yard loss; and on third down, Hatcher again pulled down Henne for a six-yard loss to dispel any momentum Jacksonville had mustered with its long touchdown pass just before halftime.
While Hatcher clogged up the interior, Kerrigan manned the edges, maneuvering into the backfield to keep Henne from scanning through a receiver pool that lost tight end Marcedes Lewis to injury at the start of the second half.
By game’s end, the Redskins had held the Jaguars to 148 yards, the lowest total allowed since 2007, and the 31-point margin of victory was the team’s largest since 2007.
The rarity of Washington’s defensive effort brought both compliments and critique from the players.
Brian Orakpo called the effort “dominant” before noting the 63- and 54-yard passes surrendered by the unit. Hatcher, in just his second game with the organization, was less impressed, challenging both he and his teammates to make Sunday’s performance a staple for the season.
“I don’t feel like we’ve done nothing,” Hatcher said. “This is the second game of the season. It was a hell of a game played, but at the end of the day, we haven’t done nothing. Once we do it consistently, do it week in and week out, then we can say ‘Hey, we had a good game.’ ”
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Game summary: Redskins 41, Jaguars 10
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