The Redskins knew last week’s offensive performance against the Colts wasn’t good enough. The energy was too low, the execution lacked and the slow start wasn’t indicative of the playmakers the team boasted.
That’s why head coach Jay Gruden looked to be aggressive from the start Sunday afternoon, to make a statement early against the Packers and get the offensive weapons rolling like they did in the season opener. After converting a third down on the first drive of the game, quarterback Alex Smith let a deep ball rip. Wide receiver Paul Richardson Jr. hauled in the 46-yard pass through the rain, sprang up and then pranced into the end zone untouched.
It was an immediate remedy for the bad taste that lingered in the team’s mouth throughout the week.
“Jay wanted to be aggressive early and it worked for us,” said Richardson, whose touchdown was his first with the Redskins. “I think it was good for us to jump out on a team like that early.”
The Redskins kept it rolling, finishing the half with four touchdowns – two belonging to running back Adrian Peterson – as Smith distributed the football to a variety of receivers that that proved fruitful in their 31-17 victory over Green Bay at FedExField.
“I like the way we came out and I tell them today, you know, we play with that type of effort every week we’re pretty dangerous,” Gruden said. “So the big thing is to stay focused, stay humble and move forward.”
After last week’s struggles, especially being unable to convert on third down, Smith was aware of the need to stretch the ball down the field – to take some deep shots in the hopes of creating an explosive play to keep defenses honest and out of the box. The connection to Richardson on the first drive was a good indicator of how Smith’s afternoon would go.
“I knew he was going to throw it regardless of the coverage so I just wanted to make a play on the ball,” Richardson said. “It was a point of emphasis we need to go down field, Alex actually, man, he was excited he was trying to go down field all game, he really wanted to. I think it was good that we had success doing it.”
The run game followed. Adrian Peterson started warming up on the third drive of the game, sprinting for a 13-yard gain and bookending a 10-play, 79-yard drive with a two-yard touchdown, the 101st of his career and seventh most all-time. Peterson finished with 120 rushing yards on 19 carries, working behind a shuffled offensive line.
“You can’t have one without the other, you’d just be one dimensional,” tight end Jordan Reed said of the run game aiding the pass game. “So we were able to do both things today and that definitely helped us have a great offensive performance.”
Without starting left guard Shawn Lauvao, and later losing right tackle Morgan Moses to a concussion, the Redskins offense continued its blistering pace. Smith found tight end Jordan Reed on slant patterns in the middle of the field, used his legs to pick up first downs and forced pass interference flags on a couple throws to Josh Doctson in tight coverage.
Even after throwing an interception in the second quarter, the offense responded with a touchdown on the next drive, highlighted by a Reed 34-yard catch and run and a Peterson burst for 41 yards up the right sideline, capped by slant pass to Jamison Crowder, who scampered into the end zone for the first time this season.
“I feel like we had to win at home,” Crowder said. “You gotta be able to win at home. You gotta use it to your advantage and last week we didn’t play well here. Today we wanted to come out here, and even though it was raining, still go out there and make plays.”
“We had a great mix going,” Smith said. “I thought we had them on their heels in the first half. They didn’t have a good beat on what we were doing, run and pass. It was fun.”
Smith, who completed 12-of-20 passes for 220 yards, finished up a dominant first half using a familiar target in Vernon Davis. He collected a 50-yard pass on a wheel route, putting the Redskins back into Green Bay territory before Crowder grabbed another slant pass over the middle for 18 yards. Peterson followed by slamming his way just past the goal line for his second touchdown of the day.
“I think mainly the execution was better,” Peterson said. “You kind of look at the line of scrimmage today compared to last week, it was night and day. Like I’ve said before, offensive line, defensive line, that’s the key to any offense or any defense. Those guys set the tone and we were able just to do what we do as skilled players.”
Despite being mostly silenced in the second half, the offense responded in the way it needed to Sunday. It erased last week’s concerns that the wide receivers weren’t being involved in the offense, that the offensive line had started to stumble and that the run game's performance in Week 1 might have been a fluke.
It also provided a sigh of relief as the team enters the early bye week – a chance for players to catch their breaths, enjoy a better mindset with two victories under their belts to prepare for a 13-game stretch that promises to be as grueling as it appears.
“We don’t want to be sitting on a loss for two weeks especially this early in the season,” Richardson said. “We have a lot of confidence, we’re happy to have a leader in Alex, he carried us through today, even when we were having lows on offense, he carried us through. With him being out there, and with him leading us, our talent, I think we’re going to be able to do a lot.”