Washington’s defense finally, and convincingly, put together a performance they can be proud of. After a month that has seen its early season stoutness spiral out of control, the defense finished off a game with a timely turnover and a dominant performance.
In a tied game with under three minutes to play, Fabian Moreau put his stamp on the game. The second-year cornerback out of UCLA jumped on an overthrown pass intended for Dede Westbrook and picked it off, giving the offense the ball back at midfield. Oh, and it was the first pick of the young defensive back’s NFL career, which excited his fellow defensive backs.
“We knew we had to make a play. All day we’ve been talking about the turnover, and we finally got it,” D.J. Swearinger said. “My guy Fab finally [got] his first one. It was a good day for him.”
It was a good day for the defense in general, as they held the Jaguars’ nine drives to end results of: fumble, punt, punt, punt, field goal, punt, punt, field goal, interception. They had as many sacks (six) as points allowed, and came away with two turnovers.
"I thought we got a lot of pressure early on that really kind of set the tone, and I think we got consistent pressure throughout the day which we hadn't done in some of the previous games and we were able to do that with the front four,” Ryan Kerrigan told reporters. “Anytime you can just let the guys on the back end cover that's a good thing."
Kerrigan had himself a day, registering two sacks and forcing a fumble that was recovered by Daron Payne. His performance Sunday moved him into second place in Redskins career sack totals, passing Charles Mann and positioning him just behind Dexter Manley.
Jonathan Allen followed suit and picked up two sacks as well, including an impressive bull rush (or bear hug) on Jaguars guard Patrick Omameh that forced the Jaguars to punt.
"We want to be a relentless defense. As a defense we challenge ourselves to be all in for one week and see how good we can be and I feel like we did a good job of doing that today," Allen said.
The defense looked dominant on Sunday, holding Jaguars quarterback Cody Kessler to 57 yards through the air on 17 attempts. They also held running back Leonard Fournette to 46 yards on 11 carries. Per Pro Football Focus, Fournette averaged only 1.6 yards after contact, his second-lowest average this season. Washington was noticeably better at tackling, and it shows in their handling of Fournette.
After the game, Gruden told reporters that the defense’s performance allowed the offense to hang around until the end of the game, where they scored 10 of their 16 points on their last two drives.
“It was tough. I think the defense realized they were playing pretty good and we could get stops. Offensively, I think we left some things out there, we saw a lot of good things we could get to,” Gruden said. “Our defense just kept going, our guys kept playing and we ended up winning at the end.”
The only glaring weakness that came up on the defensive side of the ball was their inability to stop Kessler from running for first downs. The former third-round pick is not known for his rushing ability. In fact, Kessler’s previous game-high rushing total was 28 yards. Sunday’s 68 yards on the ground makes up 49.2 percent of Kessler’s career rushing yards, so either the 6-foot-1, 215 pound quarterback with a 4.89 40-time suddenly realized he has wheels, or he saw something in the Redskins defense that gave him the opportunity to pick up first downs with his legs.
While rushing performances by quarterbacks are usually an afterthought, Kessler’s success becomes particularly pertinent given the next quarterback the Redskins face is Marcus Mariota, a much more dynamic threat on the ground than Kessler.
The Redskins will most likely be more prepared for a rushing quarterback this Saturday when they go to Nashville to play the 8-6 Titans, who have won three games in a row and are themselves fighting for a playoff spot.