Once the performance of the national anthem ended, the players unlinked their arms. Those kneeling and sitting stood up. The American flag was folded and carried into the tunnel. On a Sunday night when politics and social issues were the focus during pregame, football was eventually played at FedEx Field. And the Washington Redskins made a statement against the Oakland Raiders.
For the ensuing 60 minutes, Washington dominated a game in which it was viewed as an underdog. The Redskins were the aggressor against a good Raiders team, dictating a physical tone that they maintained for much of the game in a 27-10 victory.
Washington controlled the trenches on both sides of the ball, recording 472 yards while holding Oakland to just 128. The effort was spearheaded by the Redskins' defense, which had displayed a level of competitiveness that Redskins Coach Jay Gruden appreciated through two games but had yet to piece together an impressive performance. In Week 3, against a Raiders offense that hadn't committed a turnover in its first two games, Washington's defense recorded three takeaways that resulted in 14 points.
"I think it was as good a defensive performance that I've seen in a long time by anybody," Gruden said.
The first takeaway occurred on the second play from scrimmage, when rookie safety Montae Nicholson snagged his first career interception on a Derek Carr pass intended for Amari Cooper. Washington's offense followed with an eight-play, 67-yard drive that ended with a 22-yard touchdown reception by running back Chris Thompson, who has four of Washington's seven offensive touchdowns through three games. Thompson finished with 188 total yards, including six receptions for 150 yards.
"I can't say enough about our defense today. They did such a great job," Thompson said. "[The Raiders are] one of the best offenses in this league."
Carr was intercepted once again in the second quarter by cornerback Kendall Fuller, who also recorded his first career interception.
Carr, who went 19 for 31 for 118 yards, one touchdown and a 52.9 passer rating, hadn't thrown two interceptions in a game since Dec. 20, 2015, in his second NFL season.
Eleven plays later, quarterback Kirk Cousins connected with tight end Vernon Davis for a beautiful 18-yard touchdown pass as the Redskins took a 14-0 lead they carried into halftime. Cousins and the Redskins' passing attack was effective, and he finished 25 for 30 for 365 yards, three touchdowns and a 150.7 passer rating.
The Raiders entered the game with the third-best third down conversation rate in the league, but they didn't convert a third down on 11 attempts. Washington's previous two opponents, the Philadelphia Eagles and Los Angeles Rams, went a combined 13 for 26 on third downs.
Oakland's offensive line struggled to protect Carr, as Washington's defense recorded four sacks, while the Raiders couldn't establish the run and finished with 32 yards on 13 attempts. It didn't help that Carr's receivers also struggled to hold on to the ball. Oakland dealt with multiple drops from Cooper, who had just one catch on five targets for six yards, and Michael Crabtree, who had a catch for seven yards.
"We just plan on being physical every game," said Redskins rookie defensive end Jonathan Allen, who recorded his first career sack. "I feel like that is something we want to build as an identity here. I feel like we did a good job of doing that."
In garbage time when the Raiders attempted to establish some sort of flow on offense, Fuller recorded a forced fumble with less than four minutes left that was recovered by linebacker Martrell Spaight. The turnover ensured Washington consecutive victories after it lost its season opener to the Eagles.
"We know it's been a big emphasis the last few years that the Redskins' defense isn't this, the Redskins' defense isn't that," Spaight said. "And we emphasize that every week that we've got to stop the run, get off the field on third down, make plays on the football and the whole nine. Every week we try to come with a chip on our shoulder. I know we've got a great defense, hell, a great team. I feel that if we click on all cylinders that, man, we should be untouchable."
It took over a year for wide receiver Josh Doctson to prove why he was a first-round pick, and it was worth the wait. On a play-action pass early in the third quarter, Cousins heaved a jump ball toward Doctson, who was covered one-on-one by former Redskins cornerback David Amerson. Doctson adjusted on the underthrown ball to snatch it out of the air over Amerson for a 52-yard touchdown, the first of his career. It was Doctson's only catch of the night.
The Redskins will go from one prime-time game to another in Week 4, when they travel to Kansas City to face the Chiefs next Monday night. The Chiefs moved to 3-0 with their 24-10 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday afternoon.
Game summary: Redskins 27, Raiders 10