Washington hasn't opened a season 2-0 since 2011, but that could change with a win in Arizona on Sunday.
How can that happen? It's easy to point out the Burgundy and Gold pass rush and say that Chase Young needs to get after Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray. It's accurate too, but not precise.
Washington also has to run the football better. Much better. Three Washington running backs got carries last week in the win against the Eagles, and combined the stats are awful: 29 carries for 63 yards. That's fewer than 2.2. yards-per-carry.
Those are obvious things. Let's dig into some less obvious things:
- Ron Rivera talked this week about starting fast, and after a quick 17-0 hole against Philadelphia last week, Rivera isn't lying. Here's the thing - Washington almost never starts fast. In their last 17 games the football team has held a lead at the end of the first quarter just four times. In fact, they've only scored double digits in the first quarter once, and that was Week 1 2019.
- Washington struggled tremendously last year in stopping opponents on third downs. The ineptitude was historic for much of 2019, and the struggles continued early on last week against the Eagles. After the terrible first quarter, however, Washington held the Eagles to just five third-down conversions on 14 attempts. That's about a 35 percent rate, and last year every Washington win came when the defense kept third-down conversions below 40 percent. In their big win last week over San Francisco, the Cardinals converted half of their third downs, going seven of 14. The Arizona defense limited the Niners to just two of 11 on third down. That's a huge disparity and a key to victory.
- The sample size is low but Washington QB Dwayne Haskins has struggled on the road early in his NFL career. In 10 starts for the second-year passer, Haskins has an even split of home and road action. At home, the numbers are encouraging - 7 TDs to just 2 INTs with an 89.7 rating. On the road, however, Haskins' numbers are bad - 1 TD to 5 INTs and a 58.7 rating. It's worth pointing out that Haskins' road stats are particularly skewed by a horrid relief performance last season in New York. It was Week 4 and Haskins only entered the game because starter Case Keenum got hurt. The truth is Haskins was absolutely not ready to play yet and was thrust into an awful situation. In that game, Haskins tossed three interceptions and with a 38.4 rating. Remove that outlier bad performance from Haskins' road stats, and the numbers aren't nearly as cringe-worthy.