No one expected the Washington Redskins, rookie quarterback and all, to walk out of the Superdome with a victory. They played smart on both sides of the ball, and executed a perfect game-plan with Robert Griffin III.
This week, the Redskins have to avoid the all-too-familiar letdown against a seemingly inferior opponent in the St. Louis Rams.
If Mike Shanahan and the Redskins want to make it out of the Edward Jones Dome with yet another victory, they'll have to put on a repeat performance of their impressive week 1 outing. Here are the keys to the game for the Washington Redskins.
Though the concept seems pretty simple, the Redskins have struggled to put games away early or clinch a victory down the stretch. Against the Saints, the Redskins scored 10 points per quarter and need to continue that trend against the Rams.
This early in the season, no team is ever out of a game and the Redskins can't let the Rams hang around at all.
Against a defense as porous as the Rams, the Redskins shouldn't have any trouble lighting up the scoreboard for a second week in a row. It may not be as shocking as the output against the Saints, but the 'Skins have the ability to make the Rams look terrible. They just have to treat this game the same way, and expect to shock their opposition.
Pierre Garcon's 88-yard catch and run against the Saints last week was the Redskins longest passing play since 1987. He may be limited this week, but the rest of the receivers have shown run after the catch ability, which has been sorely lacking in Washington in recent history.
One 88-yarder is not going to carry the Redskins through the season, and the Rams gave up the most passing yards in Week 1.
Washington's offense is ranked first in the NFL, producing 459 yards last week. They opened up big plays by starting the game with short throws to draw the defense up. The Rams don't have a great, or experienced, defense, and that should provide the Redskins with some openings down the field.
Darren Sproles and the rest of the Saints backfield gained just 32 yards against the Redskins defense last week. Stephen Jackson is bigger and meaner than any of the Saints running backs, and could be trouble this Sunday.
Jackson has averaged 76.7 yards per game against the Redskins, including four total touchdowns in six meetings.
Every team in the NFL is working out their game plan to stop the Redskins offense—Robert Griffin III in particular. The zone-read option worked like a charm against the Saints—making them think before reacting and making plays on the ball.
The Rams have had the week to study the film of the Redskins offense, but Mike and Kyle Shanahan can't rest on their laurels just yet.
St. Louis' defense is ranked 28th in total yards allowed, while the Redskins offense is ranked first. The key to the Redskins' success last week was keeping the Saints defense from settling in; drawing them up before taking shots down the field.
With Rex Grossman under center last season, the Redskins were good for a turnover per game on offense. Last week, Washington managed to avoid potential turnovers, while forcing three of their own.
Though the Rams defense isn't particularly opportunistic, the Redskins can't afford to put the ball on the ground or force any passes.
Brandon Banks put two punts on the ground and Robert Griffin III mishandled a play action exchange last week. Luckily, the Saints couldn't come away with the ball, but the Redskins can't make close calls a habit early in the season.
The Redskins offense was at its best when Robert Griffin III was hitting a different receiver on every passing play. When Pierre Garcon went out, Aldrick Robinson stepped in and stepped up. Josh Morgan, Santana Moss, Fred Davis, Roy Helu, Brandon Banks and Logan Paulsen all had critical touches against the Saints.
The offense can't take a step back and focus on one or two receivers, hoping the defense or the running game can get it done.
With Garcon's status for Sunday's game up in the air, it will be important for the receiving corps to make up for his absence or his limited ability.
As nasty as the Redskins front seven on defense may be, they have to get to Sam Bradford more than they got to Drew Brees. Where Brees threw the ball away when he was feeling pressure, Bradford is likely to panic and make a mistake.
Bradford was sacked four times against Detroit, and their pass rush is nowhere near that of the Redskins.
Ryan Kerrigan and Bryan Orakpo could have big days against the Rams and their questionable offensive line. Stephen Bowen, Adam Carriker and Jarvis Jenkins can get pressure unlike other 3-4 ends, and will create more chaos in the Rams backfield.