LANDOVER -- The Washington Redskins 21-16 win over the Buffalo Bills provided a true Rorschach Test as the starters likely received their final in-game exam Friday night before the regular season opener.
Look at the stats alone and there's plenty of good that happened at FedEx Field. In his most extensive action of the preseason, Kirk Cousins threw for 188 yards and three touchdowns -- all in the second quarter. He and the rest of Washington's offense played against a Buffalo defense that sat 10 starters.
Despite that backup look, Cousins and crew labored early. The quarterback went 3-of-9 for 17 yards with an interception in the first quarter. Yet a groove was found as he finished 13-of-23, and the Redskins (2-1) didn't bring back the starters after halftime.
The starting defense proved resilient even after Cousins' interception, a pass unwisely thrown into coverage, set Buffalo up with good field position. Corners Josh Norman and Bashaud Breeland provided blanket coverage on the subsequent drive. Preston Smith looked like a Pro Bowl linebacker. The Bills, playing with quarterback Tyrod Taylor and without running back LeSean McCoy, settled for three field goals in the first half and trailed, 21-9.
The Redskins' decision to sit numerous key players on both sides of the ball last week was deemed curious by most. That nearly all suited up in this "dress rehearsal" game meant a longer look.
Good. Cousins improved as the game progressed. Receivers DeSean Jackson (Four receptions for 56 yards) and Ryan Grant each showed off their yards-after-the-catch game. Grant found the end zone on his 38-yard play. Jordan Reed and Pierre Garcon also scored. Vernon Davis made plays in the passing game.
Backup defenders Will Blackmon and Martrell Spaight combined to force a fumble that Greg Toler recovered. Lineman Ziggy Hood was a presence. Washington's deep reserves kept Buffalo out of the end zone during a final frantic possession as Kendall Fuller's interception ended the game.
Yet more snaps meant, if you're a Debbie Downer type, an increased possibility for injuries to those key players simply because they played. As it turned out, the gods were angry Friday night, my friends (George Costanza voice).
Pass rusher Ryan Kerrigan left after the first series with a groin injury. Running back Keith Marshall didn't return after suffering a sprained left elbow. Two starting offensive linemen, right tackle Morgan Moses (ankle) and Spencer Long (sprained ankle) went out, as did cornerback Quinton Dunbar (shin). That's on top of Matt Jones (shoulder sprain), Jamison Crowder (knee) and Chris Baker (hamstring) not playing.
Speaking of painful, both sides were called for numerous penalties. The Redskins' offensive line received more than its fair share. Two days after Washington traded for center Bryan Stork, center Kory Lichtensteiger was whistled for three holding penalties. Ty Nsekhe picked up two penalties filling in for Moses.
However, the running game helped out, thanks to the "super powers" of Robert Kelley, who rushed 12 times for 51 yards. Kelley's vision and burst were evident. That the undrafted rookie could also start when the games turn real depending on the bumps and bruises elsewhere is a true reality. When Marshall was sidelined, three of Washington's top four running backs were left watching. No, that does not include Pierre Thomas, silly rabbits.
The scene at FedEx also included a random appearance of the "Wave." This jaded reporter rolled his eyes. Others in the crowd roared. Like the game, it all depends how you view the situation.
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