A Perfect Start

"I wanna win, we will win."

This is how Redskins' running back Tim Hightower predicted the game against his former Arizona Cardinals teammates would pan out.

Fortunately for Hightower, the Redskins defeated the visiting Cardinals, 22-21, due directly in part to Graham Gano's 34-yard field goal to put the team ahead late in the fourth quarter.

However, the game should not have come down to a Sav Rocca tackle on the last play of the game. A few key mistakes could have been avoided, which would have potentially given the Redskins a more comfortable victory.

Rex Grossman quarterbacked a spirited first drive of the game, kick-started by an 8-yard rumble by Hightower on the first play. Grossman distributed the ball effectively (4 completions for 54 yards) to three different receivers, and thanks to an unnecessary roughness penalty on Arizona, the Redskins were threatening inside the Cardinals' 10-yardline.

However, perhaps due to the pressure put on him, or the fact that receiver Santana Moss slipped, Grossman was intercepted by Adrian Wilson on the Cardinals' goal line.

The truth of the matter is: Moss was double-covered and Grossman tried to force a third down throw, on a part of the field that demands smart and calculated decisions.

Luckily, the Redskins' defense (mostly London Fletcher) picked up their offense, and immediately forced a punt after just four plays by the Arizona offense.

To compound an already agitated fan-base, Grossman followed up his first interception with yet another one on the next drive.

The Redskins again were moving the ball effectively, mostly thanks to the connection of Grossman to Gaffney (2 completions for 30 yards on this drive). However, as Anthony Armstrong cut left on a crossing route, the ball deflected off of his outstretched hand and into the hands of the Cardinals' Richard Marshall.

Two drives in which points were imminent, two interceptions.

Now, after a few replays, it was obvious that Armstrong's left hand was held by his defender, possibly disallowing him from making the catch. But, missed calls like that happen in each game, and you can't blame a win or a loss on a call that happened in the first quarter.

This time, the Cardinals capitalized on a quick and decisive two-play drive which culminated with a 21-yard touchdown pass from ex-Eagle Kevin Kolb to tight-end Jeff King (who made a great dive to break the plane of the end zone).

Although the Cardinals also blocked a field goal attempt at the end of the first half, I'd like to devote the rest of my piece to two enlightening things I observed.

1) Roy Helu: the Nebraska product has proven to be the best offensive rookie so far on the team, and this game is where he shined. In a world where stats rule sports, his stat line was impressive: 10 carries for 74 yards; 3 catches for 38 yards. His ability to accelerate, his agility, and his knack for gaining positive yards, all are why he carried that stat line.

In what culminated in an 80-yard drive that set up a touchdown pass to Fred Davis, Helu accounted for over half of those yards on two electric plays. The first play, a beautiful screen pass to the left side, saw Helu hurdle, evade, and stiff arm his way to a 33-yard gain.

Helu followed this dynamic scamper by taking the next hand-off and running for 11 more yards, putting the Redskins nine yards from the end zone with a fresh set of downs.

For the rest of the game, Helu's agility and speed offered the opposing defense a successful complement to the hard-nose running style of starter Tim Hightower. Once it seemed that the defense had bottled up Hightower, in came Helu: a much quicker, shiftier runner who created problems for the defense.

I was pleasantly surprised by how well Helu played and see no reason not to expect more of the same. Left tackle Trent Williams simply said: "He's [Helu] a blur."

2) Fred Davis: the physical specimen may have finally turned the page: the page to become an elite tight end in the NFL. For the second straight game, Davis led the team in receptions, and now for the season has 11 catches for 191 yards.

Although most of his yardage came before the final drive of the game, I want to focus on his contributions when it meant the most.

After a defensive stand, the Redskins received a Cardinals' punt, down by 2, and with 4:20 left in the game. Davis was targeted on the first two plays of that drive, the first gaining 15 yards, and the second gaining only four. However, the four-yard completion's importance was paramount: the pass was under-thrown, near the feet of the 6'4" receiver.

Davis bent low, caught the pass, and secured it on the way to the ground. Grossman followed up that completion with another to Moss, edging them even closer to field goal range.

If Davis had dropped the pass, if he had not worked strained to bend low and catch the ball, the drive might have stalled, and the game might have been lost.

Davis didn't drop the ball, and the Redskins won.

These two offensive players, Helu and Davis, along with a changed mentality in Washington I believe was the deciding factor in a game that may have seen a different outcome this time last year.

In the second straight game, the Redskins played great defense, and especially when it meant the most. Ryan Kerrigan had yet another tipped ball at the line of scrimmage, and added in his first career sack. London Fletcher captained the defense by example: two tackles, three assists, and an interception.

I think this was a game that the Redskins would have lost last season, but this isn't last year, and the Redskins are 2-0.

Next week, on Monday night, the Redskins go into Dallas against a Cowboys team that pulled out an overtime victory in San Francisco. Their quarterback, Tony Romo, was injured in the game, but returned to lead his team to victory.

Whether Romo plays or not, the Redskins should expect a team ready to defend their home turf (Dallas began their season with two straight games on the road, going 1-1) with a much superior offense than either of the two opponents faced so far by the Redskins.

Look for the Redskins to continue to pound the ball on the ground, 61 rushes so far this season, and for the defense to continue to disrupt the quarterback in the pocket.

If it's Romo, look for the Redskins to irritate his already injured ribs; if its backup Jon Kitna, look for them to force the veteran into hurried decisions, hopefully capitalizing on ill-advised throws.

(Jonathan Wigginton is the Chat Sports Senior Writer for the Washington Redskins)

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