The Redskins are officially in the win column after extending the Miami Dolphins’ winless streak Sunday afternoon. Here are five takeaways from Washington’s 17-16 win:
1. While the team put together a full four quarters, there were still some issues in the second half.
One of the biggest criticisms the team has faced this season revolves around its inability to put together a full game. The Redskins have performed well in select first halves -- such as when they held a 17-0 lead against the Philadelphia Eagles and only trailed, 12-7, against the New England Patriots -- but have struggled to keep that momentum for 60 minutes.
For the most part, the Redskins were able to do that against the Dolphins. After rookie wide receiver Terry McLaurin scored a 25-yard touchdown in the second quarter, the Redskins led for the rest of the game. The offense put up 311 yards of total offense, while the defense held the Dolphins to fewer than 20 points for the fifth time this season.
The game was dangerously close to ending in disaster, though. Ryan Fitzpatrick replaced Josh Rosen in the fourth quarter and nearly brought the Dolphins back with a touchdown pass with six seconds left to make the score 17-16. Fortunately, Miami’s two-point conversion failed, and the Redskins came away with their first victory of the season.
2. Terry McLaurin showed again why he’s one of this year’s most-talented rookies.
McLaurin made a massive splash for the Redskins offense this year by being the first rookie in NFL history to record five receptions and a score in each of his first three games.
He’s been quiet since his last touchdown against the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football, but he reminded Redskins fans that he was still a vital piece of the offense Sunday afternoon.
There were many times when McLaurin seemed to have his way against the Dolphins' defense. He followed his first-half touchdown with another in the third – a 33-yard grab where he sprinted away from the defensive back and into the end zone. McLaurin was open on both of his scores because of his ability to create separation from defenders.
McLaurin, currently the Redskins' leading receiver in 2019, finished Sunday's game with 100 yards on four receptions.
3. Adrian Peterson fueled a dominant rushing attack.
Interim head coach Bill Callahan and offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell wanted to run the ball against the Dolphins, and they were able to accomplish that thanks in large part to Peterson.
McLaurin might have been the primary scorer for the Redskins’ offense, but Peterson was the unit's driving force. The Redskins’ first touchdown came on a play-action pass, which was helped by 59 yards from Peterson that forced the Miami defense to play closer to the line of scrimmage.
Peterson also came close to getting a score of his own on a screen pass that put the Redskins inside Miami’s 5-yard line. He then drove the ball down to the 1-yard line before fumbling the ball on the next play. The Redskin settled on a field goal to make the score 17-3.
Peterson finished the game with 118 yards rushing, which is the first time he has reached that benchmark since Dec. 22, 2018, against the Tennessee Titans.
4. The Redskins defense dominated early and came through late.
Last week featured flashes of why the Redskins were so excited about their defense this year, but this week was a full-blown demonstration of that.
The pass rush was the catalyst of that; they had four sacks in the first half, which is the second time they have reached that milestone in consecutive weeks. Led by defensive lineman Jonathan Allen, who had three tackles and two sacks, the Redskins got to Dolphins’ quarterbacks five times.
When the pass rush didn’t get to the quarterback, they were still making life difficult for the Dolphins’ offense, and that resulted in turnovers. Quinton Dunbar got his third interception of year in the second quarter, while Shaun Dion Hamilton intercepted Rosen in the third.
The Redskins held the Dolphins’ offense to 271 yards, including just 69 through the air.
5. Third downs are still an issue for the Redskins offense.
The offense put forth one of its best performances all season, but staying on the field and converting third downs continued to be an obstacle.
The Redskins went three-and-out in their first three drives. It wasn’t until their touchdown drive that the offense was able to sustain a possession, and even after that, it wasn’t until the second half that they were able to put together another drive that lasted longer than five plays.
The Redskins finished the game 2-for-11 on third down for a conversion rate of just 18%. The Dolphins finished 3-for-14 (21%) in that category.
Callahan wanted his team to play two-down football, and there were moments of, such as the second touchdown drive when the team was able to do that with ease. But there will need to be improvements in that area going forward, especially with the undefeated San Francisco 49ers coming to FedExField next Sunday.