LANDOVER -- Scot McCloughan addressed a group of players, primarily running backs, in one corner of the home locker room following the Redskins' 21-16 preseason win over the Buffalo Bills on Friday night. The general manager delivered a brief but inspirational message about building a "winning culture."
"Winning keeps winning," McCloughan stated, "and it ain't gonna stop."
Based on this specific game, McCloughan could have pointed to an opening sequence that defined that desired culture.
Kirk Cousins threw an interception in the first quarter and the Buffalo Bills took over in enemy territory. Two plays later in the scoreless game, the ball sat on the Washington Redskins' 15-yard-line on first down. Preseason game or not, this was a tone-setting moment.
Buffalo played without star running back LeSean McCoy. Passes were coming. Washington's secondary knew it would need to make plays.
Buffalo quarterback Tyrod Taylor lofted a corner toss to Pro Bowl-caliber receiver Sammy Watkins. Cornerback Bashaud Breeland matched his former college teammate's steps in the pattern, leaving Taylor no clear path for the throw. Incomplete. After a Taylor 5-yard run, the Bills looked for six. Taylor rifled a pass to a cutting Robert Woods over the middle of the end zone. Josh Norman wasn't just in the vicinity, but in the receiver's personal space. Woods got one hand on the ball. He needed two.
The Bills settled for a field goal, as they did throughout the first half, entering the locker room down 21-9, even after the Redskins' offense started slow.
"Backbreaker," Norman said. " That's what we get paid to do. That's our job. Go out there and execute, flawlessly. Sometimes we may have mistakes here or there. Most of the time, we need to get the best of the offense."
The Redskins signed the Pro Bowl corner to a massive contract this offseason. The team wanted more backbreaker moments, the kind not always in play last season.
"That's where I feel the growth is for the defense," Breeland said. "Last year, we get down in those positions and we give them seven points. ... We’re working at that aspect, and the mentality is whether the offense scores or turns it over, we are going to get a stop and if we can do that, we can carry the team a long way."
Mistakes happen. Limiting the downside when they do wins games. Friday's victory over Buffalo may have been only a preseason game, but it also may have been a tone-setter.
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