Despite an unbelievable comeback fueled by the Washington Redskins’ (1-2) running game in the second half, the Cincinnati Bengals (2-1) tore through a debilitated Skins defense from start to finish as the Burgundy and Gold fell 38-31 at FedEx Field Sunday afternoon.
From the very first play, it was clear Sunday’s matchup was going to be a wild one. After the Bengals’ Brandon Tate returned the kickoff for 31 yards to the Cincinnati 27-yard line, the Bengals ran the wildcat on the first play of the game with a direct snap to rookie wide receiver Mohamed Sanu, who launched a 73-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Green, giving the Bengals a 7-0 lead in less than 20 seconds.
Unfortunately for the injury-ridden Redskins, it didn’t take long for the team to suffer another blow. On a 1st and 10 play in which running back Alfred Morris ran the ball for 12 yards, left tackle Trent Williams went down with an injury to his right knee. Williams hobbled through a few plays later in the game, but the Redskins wound up replacing him with Jordan Black, who never even received playing time last season.
Sav Rocca erased memories of blocked punts in the past two games with a near-perfect 58-yard punt to the Bengals’ one-yard line and in an unprecedented turn of events, Redskins’ defensive end Rob Jackson intercepted a pass intended for BenJarvus Green-Ellis in the Bengals’ end zone to tie the game 7-7 with the extra point.
The Bengals continued to plow through the Redskins’ defense, however, and with less than six minutes left in the quarter, Andy Dalton capitalized on holes in the Washington defensive line by tossing an all-too-easy 48-yard catch-and-run to wide receiver Armon Binns, allowing the Bengals to take a 14-7 lead.
In the second quarter, Madieu Williams prevented the Bengals from tacking on an additional touchdown as the Bengals, in punt formation, snapped the ball to punter Kevin Huber, who failed to cross into the end zone. Unfortunately for the Redskins, the Bengals would have another opportunity to line up for the punt later in the quarter, which increased their lead to 17-7 with less than 10 minutes remaining in the half.
And then, the Redskins began to crumble.
At 2nd and 7, from the Redskins’ 23-yard line, Carlos Dunlap broke through a suffering Washington offensive line with a sack on Robert Griffin III. On the play, Griffin fumbled the ball, which Dunlap recovered. The Bengals quickly tossed for the touchdown, expanding their lead to 24-7. Billy Cundiff trimmed the lead to 24-10 just before the break with a 36-yard field goal, but the Redskins looked lifeless at the close of the half.
At the start of the third quarter, however, it was clear the Redskins were attempting a new strategy to break through the Bengals’ mediocre defense—and it centered on re-working the running game. In under five minutes, the strategy appeared to be successful. Fred Davis and Evan Royster each picked up first downs on running plays and the Redskins received a huge break on cornerback Adam Jones’s horse collar penalty for 15 yards. Shortly after, Griffin tossed to Alfred Morris for the touchdown, trimming the Bengals’ lead to 24-17.
The running game continued to deliver. With help from a 21-yard rush by Brandon Banks, the Redskins went 83 yards in nine plays to put Griffin in position to connect with Santana Moss for a three-yard touchdown to tie the game.
The Bengals handed Washington another huge opportunity on Green-Ellis’s first fumble in 590 career touches, but the Redskins failed to take advantage of it.
While the Redskins’ defense seemed to show signs of life in the second half, there simply wasn’t enough coverage on Green. Less than two minutes into the fourth quarter, Dalton gunned one 31 yards to Green, allowing him to toss to Jermaine Gresham for a six-yard touchdown to give the Bengals a 31-24 lead.
To the Redskins dismay, Washington’s offensive line also continued to deteriorate – and so did the officiating. As Griffin suffered hit after hit—including a few in the third and fourth quarters that left him slow to get up—the officials missed a blatant pass interference call on a toss to Aldrick Robinson that left him tripped up between defensive end Michael Johnson and linebacker Roddrick Muckelroy.
With just over nine minutes left in the game, Dalton once again took advantage of holes in the Redskins’ defense as he lobbed a 59-yard touchdown to wide receiver Andrew Hawkins, giving the Bengals a 38-24 cushion.
However, the Redskins showed resilience in their home opener—largely because of Griffin’s fearlessness on the field. With just over seven minutes left, he led the Redskins on an 89-yard drive, which culminated in yet another rushing touchdown for Griffin and trimmed the Bengals’ lead to 38-31. Griffin ended the day as the game’s rushing leader with 12 carries for 85 yards and the touchdown.
In yet another wild turn of events, Cundiff attempted an onside kick, which would have been executed perfectly had it crossed the 10-yard threshold. Instead, Niles Paul caught it at nine yards and the Bengals received the ball at the Redskins’ 44-yard line.
Just after the two-minute warning, the Redskins got the ball again, but not before burning through all of their timeouts. As if Griffin hadn’t suffered enough hits, Bengals cornerback Terence Newman made a dirty hit, right to Griffin’s head, costing the Bengals 15 yards. With no help from the officials who issued a false start penalty on Davis and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on a player that has yet to be named, the Redskins failed to produce on the drive. Instead, the drive capped off a heartbreaker 38-31 loss in the home opener, bringing the Redskins’ record to 1-2.
Griffin went 21 for 34 for 221 yards and one touchdown on the day despite suffering five sacks. His performance proved no match, however, for Dalton who went 19 for 27 and threw for 328 yards and three touchdowns.