Washington Redskins May Have Found Formula for Winning NFC East

Sean TomlinsonNFL AnalystSeptember 25, 2017

Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) is greeted by fans as he leave the field after an NFL football game against the Oakland Raiders in Landover, Md., Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017. The Redskins defeated the Raiders 27-10. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Alex Brandon/Associated Press

The Washington Redskins embarrassed the Oakland Raiders on Sunday Night Football, to put it kindly.

In the dominant 27-10 victory, the Redskins gained 472 yards on the night, while Oakland mustered a pathetic 128. Thirty-three of those yards came on the Raiders' final drive, with Washington firmly entrenched in prevent defense.

Oakland was fresh off scoring 45 points against the New York Jets in Week 2 and 26 against the Tennessee Titans in Week 1. The Redskins' ability to shut down the high-octane Raiders offense to this degree sent a message to the rest of the NFC East: Don't count us out just yet.

Washington made several key additions on defense during the offseason, most notably signing safety D.J. Swearinger in free agency and using a first-round pick on defensive end Jonathan Allen. Early returns from the new-look unit weren't all that promising, as the Redskins ranked sixth league-wide in both points (50) and total yardage (700) allowed.

If Week 3 is any indication, the getting-to-know-you period has ended. The Redskins defense is now ready to smash, swarm and make life a living hell for opposing quarterbacks.

Just ask Raiders signal-caller Derek Carr, who came into Week 3 averaging 8.2 yards per pass attempt and hadn't yet thrown a single interception this season. That changed in a hurry Sunday night.

Derek Carr's rough night
Game(s)AttemptsTDsINTsYards/attemptComp %
Carr in Weeks 1 and 260508.275.0
Carr vs. Redskins31123.861.3
Source: NFL.com

Carr threw an interception on his first pass of the game, and he followed with another one early in the second quarter. Last year, when he was entrenched in the MVP conversation for much of the season, he didn't have a single multi-interception game. Carr, who averaged 262.5 passing yards per game in 2016, finished with a meager 118 yards against Washington.

The Redskins made Carr look average at best. When quarterbacks play far below their skill level, a dominant defense has left its mark on a game. Carr looked flustered for much of the night, and he finished with only one completion for 10-plus yards.

Not only did the Redskins impose their will on Carr, but they victimized one of the league's sturdiest offensive lines as well.

The Raiders gave up a league-low 18 sacks last year, and Carr had been sacked just twice over his first two games in 2017. Washington took Carr down four times Sunday, including twice on Oakland's second series.

As Rich Tandler of CSN Mid-Atlantic noted, the Redskins made a loud statement early, and it had Carr's ears buzzing all night:

After the interception on the Raiders' first drive, Washington forced three straight three-and-outs. As a result, Oakland finished the opening 15 minutes with minus-nine passing yards.

The Raiders didn't record a first down until the 11:45 mark of the second quarter, and they finished with only seven first downs on the night, just two of which came in the first half.

The Raiders averaged a pathetic 2.7 yards per play, three yards lower than their 2016 average. And when there was the faintest flicker of hope, the Redskins clamped down even further. The Raiders botched all 11 of their third-down conversion attempts, and they were held to a field goal in the fourth quarter after a fumble by running back Samaje Perine led to a 1st-and-goal situation on Washington's 4-yard line.

The defensive domination was almost enough to make you overlook the Redskins' brilliance on the other side of the ball. But running back Chris Thompson had something to say about that:

Most of Thompson's 188 yards from scrimmage came through the air on six catches for 150 yards. He reeled in five catches that gained 15-plus yards, highlighted by a 74-yard chunk play that put the game out of reach.

The 26-year-old Thompson is blooming a little late in his fifth NFL season, but he may be well worth the wait if this rapid growth spurt isn't a mirage. After three games in 2017, he already has 231 receiving yards. His previous single-season career high, which he set last year, was 349 yards.

Quarterback Kirk Cousins misfired just five times on his 30 attempts and threw for 365 yards and three touchdowns against the Raiders. With a hellacious defense, a do-it-all weapon in Thompson and a fully weaponized Cousins, the Redskins have the pieces in place to fight for NFC East supremacy.

The division is filled with offensive firepower, especially with Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz seemingly in the midst of a second-year leap. The division is also likely to have three 2-1 teams by the end of Monday night, when the Dallas Cowboys take on the struggling Arizona Cardinals.

The dividing line between the Cowboys, Eagles and Redskins could be razor-thin, and defense might push the eventual division champ over the top. The ability to stifle and suffocate while making talented skill-position players seem mediocre will be critical.

The Redskins did that in spades Sunday night against Oakland.