After several prime time debacles in 2009, the Washington Redskins had little room for error in a game viewed as the dawn of a "new era" in Redskins football. Washington made a mockery of themselves on national television last year and another flop with a new coach and quarterback against the hated Dallas Cowboys might have been too much to overcome.
Fortunately, the Redskins dug deep and held the vaunted Cowboys to just seven points, winning on the last play of the game after an Alex Barron holding penalty on Brian Orakpo negated a touchdown pass to Roy Williams, leading to a 13-7 Redskins victory.
The offense managed just two field goals and 250 yards of offense, but it was the defense which propelled the Redskins to a win. DeAngelo Hall stripped Cowboys running back Tashard Choice of the football on the final play of the first half and then proceeded to take it back for a touchdown.
"I have had some big plays in my career, but I don't think I have had that big of a play in a Redskins uniform," Hall said. "It felt real good. We were getting a lot of criticism this preseason about not getting in the end zone. I've always told you guys in the regular season, we will get in the end zone. It's just a testament to the guys. We were all running to the ball and I was able to get my hands on it and rake it out, pick it up, and score."
However, Hall's big play wasn't the only reason the defense won the day. Strong performances from Hall, Orakpo, LaRon Landry, and Carlos Rogers all contributed to an outstanding performance in Jim Haslett's debut as defensive coordinator in DC.
Haslett's new 3-4 defense displayed many different looks, blitzing corners, lining up with one down lineman, and mixing up coverages. The run defense struggled a little bit, allowing 4.7 yards per rush, but they were able to pressure Tony Romo and keep the Cowboys behind on the scoreboard all game long.
Defensive end Phillip Daniels was pleased with the effort of the new 3-4 defensive front.
"They did some things different on their side of the ball that we didn't expect, but overall I think we played pretty sound," Daniels said. "The main thing was getting that turnover; we want to get more of those. As long as we keep staying sound we will be pretty good."
Daniels also referred to last year's first matchup with Dallas where the Redskins blew a six point lead at the end of the game. Tonight, things were different as Washington preserved their six point advantage to win it and Daniels was happy the outcome was reversed this time around.
"We didn't get it done that time, but we got it done today," he said. "We had a lot of penalties, and a lot of miscues that got erased, but in the end we got the victory. That's all that matters."
Mike Shanahan echoed Daniels sentiments.
"At the end of the day, you've got to find a way to win," Shanahan said. "When you move the ball like we did on offense it is hard to beat a good football team and find a way to do that, so I am very proud of the full effort I have seen."
It wasn't necessarily pretty to watch, but ultimately the "new era" of Redskins football ended with a big win, redeeming them in front of a national audience and a fan base desperate for success.