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Final Thoughts on the Redskins Victory over the Cardinals

I grew up watching the Joe Gibbs 1.0 Redskins. So my philosophy on how to win at football has been quite simple. Win in the trenches. That means that you win with your big offensive and defensive linemen. Of course, in the modern NFL, it helps that these big guys are also athletic. What I watched last Sunday felt like watching old school Joe Gibbs football with some modern west coast style techniques combined with some classic (would retro fit here?) run pass option schemes that have become all the rage in football circles. I haven't had this much fun watching football probably since some of the RGIII games in 2012.

I'm not sure what it is about Washington, but it does seem to be the fountain of youth for older running backs. John Riggins, Ernest Byner, Terry Allen and now Adrian Peterson joins this group. AP looked much like a younger AP and seemed to run over anyone in his path that wasn't getting blocked.

Alex Smith also seemed to prove the Redskins coaches and front office correct that he was the right quarterback that this team needed to possibly get to the next level. Smith extended plays with his feet, knew when to throw away the ball when he felt pressure and most importantly knew how to protect the ball at all costs.

When I have done post-game breakdowns in the past, I would do a The Good, The Bad and The Ugly that contained analysis and observations about the game. This week, I'm just going to stick to some quick thoughts. We'll see if I stay with this or expand it out to a GBU type of segment in future weeks.

Quick Thoughts

1. The 1st half of the Redskins/Cardinals game may have been the best coached and best executed half I have seen during Jay Gruden's tenure as the Redskins head coach. It wasn't perfect, but at times it was pretty close. Gruden kept the Cardinals defense (it's strongest unit) off balance as they really struggled to stop Peterson/Thompson on the ground or Reed/Thompson in the air. Meanwhile after a few good carries by David Johnson, the Redskins defense completely shut the running back down while containing Sam Bradford and making his contributions in the air quite meaningless (we saw a great deal of 3rd and 5 and seeing the Cardinals only getting 3 or 4 made me think of the Redskins of the past few years a great deal).

2. Speaking of good coaching, clock management was significantly better than it has been in the past. This was clearly one of Jay's weaknesses and either he has drastically improved or has gotten a lot of help from Alex Smith, maybe a little of both. Let me just say this, there is no way Jordan Reed scores that TD with eight seconds left in the half in prior years. Not taking a shot at Kirk Cousins, but there is a noticeable difference with Alex Smith under center.

3. The team did not play flat. This was a team that played hungry. They played like they had something to prove. They played angry. I hope they play like this all season long. Some were concerned that they played a bit flat in the second half and my thought is that the Cardinals aren't a bad team. They made adjustments. The Redskins had to adjust to that, which they did but by the time they did the team continued to grind the clock and allow Arizona to eat the clock by giving them soft zones.

4. I wonder if the additions of a potential HOFer like Peterson and a well respected QB in Smith is causing the players around them to bring their A games. Jordan Reed and the Wide Receivers were making some amazing blocks in this game. While it's nice to see Reed on the field catching passes, what is critical is his ability to block.

5. The tackling was top notch by the defense. I can't really think of that many guys flat out missing a tackle or bouncing off of a Cardinal player during the game. There was some key tackles made early by the secondary which kept the Cardinals from converting on third down. Again, this stuff is critical and the difference between good teams and mediocre ones. So far the 2018 Redskins are not a mediocre team.

6. Fans have talked about the lack of pass rush/hits and sacks on Sam Bradford. Despite getting two and forcing Bradford to turn over the ball twice, there was a limited pass rush. That was part of the game plan. The team knew that the goal was to shut down David Johnson first and then to stop Bradford and Fitzgerald second. In many occasions, the Redskins didn't blitz. They just sent four on the line with the intent of forcing Bradford to hurry and make quick decisions. Expect much more exotic attacks from the Redskins when they face Andrew Luck on Sunday.

7. Another gripe from fans was the lack of the vertical game vs. Arizona. The Redskins did try a couple of vertical attacks in the second half but mostly stuck to short passes and hitting RBs in the flat. Primarily, the Redskins took what the Cardinals gave them defensively. In many cases the Cardinals defense stayed in zone coverage. This gave the Redskins good matchups as a LB would have to deal with either Chris Thompson or Jordan Reed which those two will almost win in those battles.

8. I know that there are questions about the young secondary, but one thing is for sure Quinton Dunbar is ready to be a starter. Many fans were surprised that the Redskins didn't try to bring back Bashaud Breeland but the front office and coaches had a lot of faith in Dunbar. Dunbar looked amazing and it was nice to see another UDFA develop from a guy trying to make the roster to a starter.

9. I was glad to see Ryan Anderson start to pan out after a lackluster rookie season. A sack and a very nice block as a FB on goal line was a good start for the young linebacker from Alabama.

10 I'll leave you with this thing to ponder. If Adrian Peterson rushes for 1,000+ yards this season, should the Redskins try to bring him back for 2019? Something to think about if he continues to play at the level he is currently playing for most of the season.
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