How did they do it? Well – a number of different ways. The offense and defense both made some major contributions. The only weak spot? Special teams.
But as we try and do each week in “After Further Review” - we take a big picture yet focused approach to a huge reason or two that led to a victory or a loss for the Redskins.
The offense was very sharp and crisp in the passing game. Kirk Cousins and Chris Thompson were phenomenal, as we wrote about in “Quick Snaps” - but the real story in this primetime win was the Redskins defense shredding the Raiders offensive attack.
It started on the first series with a Montae Nicholson interception. Nicholson looks to his right as the deep safety on the Raiders’ left. He reads Derek Carr’s eyes as he scans to the middle and right, before recognizing that Carr is going through his progressions that take him back to the left side and a long-ball attempt to Amari Cooper.
Nicholson goes from his right, a sharp pump/move to his left and then flips his hips again, closes and perfectly tracks the ball for an interception. Just as important, he actually catches the football. Something the Redskins generally do a terrible job of in big spots, save for the last two weeks.
The Nicholson interception was wonderful. The Kendall Fuller pick was terrific but the Redskins won this game because of a great natural pass rush and surge that they had to have and executed brilliantly. On 106.7 The FAN Sunday afternoon, as part of our station’s pregame coverage, I said the Redskins had to be conservative by nature and not over gamble by blitzing the Raiders and getting in trouble.
A natural pass rush is what I would call it, without having to send five or more pass rushers so you have more players on the back end to defend. This was especially important against the powerful and loaded Raiders offensive line that we highlighted in “Inside the Numbers” over the weekend.
This Is exactly what the Redskins did and they did it brilliantly. Let’s take a look.
On the first sack for the Redskins (below), they rush four with Ryan Kerrigan NOT on the field. Junior Galette is at the left edge with Preston Smith on the right edge. Matt Ioannidis and Jonathan Allen are the interior pass rushers and the Redskins get home without blitzing.
The Redskins get home again (below), one play later, while once again not blitzing and with Ryan Kerrigan not on the field. This is called depth and the ability to keep guys fresh.
Once again, to start the second half (below), the Redskins got two more sacks on the same drive but two plays apart. Ryan Kerrigan brought down Derek Carr for the Redskins third sack of the night.. Just a pure power, pocket collapsing rush.
Two plays later, it's the Redskins fourth takedown of Carr who doesn't appear ready for the snap and rookie Jonathan Allen takes advantage.
By my count, the Redskins did not have to BLITZ ONCE to get any of their four sacks.
We mentioned and showed Kerrigan as a pass rusher up above but it really is his run defense that has jumped out this year. He's always been productive getting after the quarterback. He's made some big plays in pass drops as he did against Philadelphia. He's never been great defending the bootleg and his overall run stopping ability has been fine, but never a strength.
That started changing in week one and has continued this year, as shown below. Kerrigan knifes down the line to stop Marshawn Lynch for a small gain. Nothing special but effective.
This is Kerrigans best run stop (below) of the night as he obliterates his block and blows up the Raiders attack for a seven-yard loss.
Kerrigan wasn't done defending the run on Sunday night either, as my pal Mark Bullock of WashingtonPost.com was able to show via the all-22 view. Here's a different look at it off the NBC broadcast and NFL Gamepass Live.
The Redskins redefined their recent defensive history and while many fans and media can't control themselves from slobbering all over Greg Manusky and Jim Tomsula, I ask you to remember this. These are the same people who were totally against hiring Manusky last January, when we told you over and over again, that he was the best choice. But, also remember, the Redskins defense is reallly good this year (so far) because they finally have upgraded two things missing for years. Talent and speed.
Chris Russell has covered the Washington Redskins for eight seasons for multiple media outlets and was a part of the Redskins Radio Network broadcast team for five years. He covers the Redskins, Washington Valor and Baltimore Brigade for Monumental Sports Network (www.DCHotRead.com). Listen to Chris on Washington D.C.'s # 1 sports radio station, 106.7 The FAN