Here are my five takeaways from the Redskins’ 20-15 win over the Cardinals.
Turnovers are important: Part of the Redskins’ problems in their last two non-competitive games was a lack of turnovers. Their only takeaway against the Cowboys and Chargers came on an interception in LA long after the outcome had been decided. Today, the Redskins got one three plays into the game, giving them an extremely short field (six yards) and a 7-0 lead a minute and a half into the game. That proved to be critical on a day when the offense operated well only in fits and starts.
Kendall Fuller might go to the Pro Bowl: Well, maybe he won’t because not many cornerbacks on 6-8 teams with low-ranked defenses get picked. But he is very, very good. Sunday he was all over the place and finished with eight tackles, including one in the middle of the line on a running play, something you don’t see a corner do often. He also knocked down two passes. The Redskins hope that some of their players who are now rookies can take the same leap that Fuller has between his first and second seasons.
Bad call, Jay: I’m not usually one to bang on Jay Gruden for his play calling but the end around to Josh Doctson late in the third quarter was just awful. They had a five-point lead first down at their own 32. A nice steady drive to any kind of score makes it tough for the Cardinals. But instead of sticking with what was working, Gruden called for an end around the Josh Doctson. It was the wrong play call at the wrong time to the wrong player. Doctson lost 14 yards on the play, which killed the drive. The Cardinals took possession after the punt and got back within two points on a field goal. Not good, Jay.
Special teams still struggle: There were three separate special teams gaffes in the second half. The Cardinals did a pooch kick on the second-half kickoff and they recovered it after the ball took an odd bounce. Then Jamison Crowder let a punt hit the ground and roll all the way back to the six-yard line, costing about 15 yards of field position. Finally, the Cardinals hit a 54-yard field goal but AJ Francis was called for using leverage to try to block the kick, giving the Cardinals a first down. Fortunately, they survived all of the miscues. The defense held Arizona to a field goal after the kickoff, the offense managed to drive for a field goal after getting the ball at the six, and the Cardinals kicked another field goal after the penalty on Francis. Still, the special teams can’t rely on getting bailed out all the time.
A needed win: The Cardinals did manage to put a big scare into the Redskins by driving down to the Washington 21 in the last minute. But the home team held on, averting disaster in the process. Had they lost due to a late drive engineered by Blaine Gabbert, who completed 39-percent of his passes and had a passer rating of 43, things would have become very ugly. A win is a win in the NFL so the fact that a couple of passes went just off the fingertips of receivers inside the 10 on the final drive won’t matter. They will celebrate and go into the week to prepare for the Broncos in a much better frame of mind.