ASHBURN — Chris Thompson carried the ball only five times in Sunday’s 24-6 win over the Arizona Cardinals, but the Redskins running back immediately noticed a difference. In front of him was an offensive line that mauled, clawed and forced open lanes — making Thompson’s job much easier, in the process.
“My [five] runs I got, I didn’t get tackled or get touched until I was like at least eight yards down the field,” said Thompson, who had 65 yards rushing and another 63 yards receiving.
The Redskins rushing attack was impressive in Week 1, but it wasn’t the only reason they were able to dominate the Cardinals. Offensively, the Redskins were able to control the clock, running 26 more plays than Arizona while enjoying a 16-minute advantage in time of possession.
How was Washington able to do it? For one, they put themselves into manageable situations. The Redskins ran 36 plays on first down — and they gained 5.11 yards per play. That made it easier to extend drives and as a result, the Redskins were more successful on third down (6-for-13).
Last season, the Redskins ranked 20th in time of possession, in part, because they were awful on first and third down. According to Pro-Football Reference, Washington gained just 4.54 yards per play on first down last year, while converting only 32.35 percent on third down. Those numbers were fourth- and second-worst in the league, respectively.
As the Redskins now shift their attention toward their home-opener against the Indianapolis Colts, Thompson has high hopes for the offense.
“For any team, you want your time of possession to be higher than the other teams because the probability of winning is way higher when you can control the clock,” Thompson said. “For us, getting to know those situations were something that affected us last year.
“I mean, it’s only one game, but I think we really showed what we were capable of doing.”
The possession disparity was also beneficial for Washington’s defense. The unit was able to stay fresh, allowing them to limit Arizona to just 1-of-8 on third down. The Redskins, too, had a shutout through three quarters.
Linebacker Mason Foster said he knows how tired the opposing defense can get when they continuously have to be on the field, and he saw that fatigue in the Cardinals.
“One of the things we were preaching to each other was, ‘If we get out here and get them three-and-out, that defense is dead,’” Foster said. “They just got a 75-yard drive, so if you get em right back, it’s going to be tough on them. They didn’t have that much of a break.”
Coach Jay Gruden gave the defense an “A+” for their effort and tenacity, particularly for the way the unit tackled. He added he was impressed with cornerback Quinton Dunbar, who had an interception and five tackles.
Gruden noted there were areas the offense could clean up, especially in the second half, when his team had the chance to extend the lead but scored just three points.
Even then, the Redskins were able to keep control of the ball, keeping the Cardinal off balance with a variety of formations and different looks.
“It was a great starting point,” Gruden said. “We can build off it and do a lot better things next week.”
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