LANDOVER - The Washington Redskins did everything they could against the Cardinals Sunday to let a win slip away. But despite their best efforts, they were able to come away with a hard-fought 22-21 victory to start their season 2-0, their best start since 2007.
Washington's second game of the year not only gave them a chance to start the season 2-0, it also gave quarterback Rex Grossman a chance to show his consistency as an NFL quarterback. He was hoping to show his critics that ‘Bad Rex' is now a thing of the past.
However, it was Bad Rex that ruled the day early, as Grossman threw a pair of first quarter interceptions, both of which occurring during promising drives. The first of which was a pass forced to top wideout Santana Moss, which was then picked off by Cardinals safety Adrian Wilson.
"It was just one minor mistake here or there," Grossman said of his ugly first quarter.
Grossman's second mistake did not go unpunished, however. His next interception was not all of his doing, as it came on a deflection by receiver Anthony Armstrong that fell right into corner Richard Marshall's hands. That turnover led to a 21 yard touchdown connection between quarterback Kevin Kolb and tight end Jeff King, who dove across the plane of the goal line to give Arizona an early 7-0 lead.
Washington was able to rebound in the second quarter, as they leaned to running backs Tim Hightower and Roy Helu, who rushed for a combined 74 yards on nine attempts. They score twice on a Graham Gano 26-yard field goal and a one yard Fred Davis touchdown reception to make the score 10-7 going into the locker room.
But the game had a familiar feel to it. Despite the Redskins dominating the game statistically -- outgaining the Cards offensively with 253 yards compared to 85 -- they clung to a three point lead to open to the second half. That's been the story for this franchise for a number of years, and it usually came back to bite them.
"Seeing the time of possession, we basically controlled the game," lineman Trent Williams said afterward.
"We dominated yards wise on offense, but only had ten points to show for it," Grossman added.
That story looked like it would repeat itself, as Arizona took the lead in the third quarter on a Beanie Wells touchdown scamper of two yards to give the Cardinals a 14-10 lead. After the Redskins pulled within one point after a Gano 23 yard field goal made it 14-13.
"They did a great job adjusting in the second half," linebacker Brian Orakpo said.
Then the Redskins looked to suffer a dagger, as Arizona star wideout Larry Fitzgerald caught a 73-yard pass from Kolb for a score that would give the Cards a 21-13 lead.
"Kolb is an intelligent quarterback," Orakpo said of the play. "He read the blitz coming. He knew which way to slide too to buy him some more time."
"[London Fletcher] had a great hit on the backside, but he already was rolling out and knew where [the blitz] was coming from, and then dumped it off to Fitzgerald from a go route that he ran."
At that point, it was up to the Redskins offense to carry to load and lead a comeback charge - something that seemed unlikely immediately after the score.
But score they did, as Grossman led a touchdown drive that culminated in a fourth-down, 18 yard throw in the right corner of the endzone to Santana Moss to make the score 21-19.
"I watched the corner and the play was designed to go to the flat," Grossman said of his second touchdown throw. "He kind of settled his feet, and I'd rather have a touchdown [pass]."
The Redskins failed on a two point conversion to tie the ballgame up. After forcing an Arizona three and out, the offense had to march down field yet again for the winning score. With the offense failing to capilaize in the red zone, it was up to kicker Graham Gano to boot the Redskins to a fourth quarter lead.
Gano proved clutch when he sent his field goal attempt through the uprights from 34 yards, giving the Redskins a 22-21 lead that would stand.
"I just had a feeling that it was going to come down to [a field goal] at the end," Gano said. "Just to have that opportunity is great."
From there, it only took one play for the Redskins defense to put the game on ice. With less than two minutes to go, Arizona receiver Chansi Stuckey fumbled the ball on a Byron Westbrook hit which safety Reed Doughty was able to recover. The play was ruled down by contact, but after further review, it was clear the ball came out of Stuckey's hands.
"They threw a quick slant, and I saw Westbrook hit him," Doughty said of the decisive play. "And I saw the ball come out, and I absolutely knew it was a fumble."
The referees agreed, the game was over, and the Redskins earned their second win of the young season.
"I think [this win] shows that this team believes in itself and believes that we are going to make the big plays at the end of the game to win," Grossman said of the victory. "You are going to have adversity throughout the year, and in the NFL it's how you handle it. I think we handled it well today."
They now will travel to Dallas to face the Cowboys on Monday Night Football, hoping to further establish themselves as a team to contend with in the NFC East.
We'll have more on the this game throughout the week in this StoryStream. For more on the Redskins check out Hogs Haven. For more on the Cardinals, head over to Revenge Of the Birds and SB Nation Arizona.