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Redskins enjoy strong Alex Smith, Adrian Peterson debuts to beat Cardinals

September 10, 2018

GLENDALE, Ariz. The Washington Redskins and Arizona Cardinals were division rivals for more than three decades, but the history of the series is not bursting with memorable results or moments. Redskins-Cowboys, this is not.

But the Redskins did not need a sexy Week 1 matchup to leave the desert wearing smiles.

For starters, their 24-6 win over Arizona reversed the trend of four straight losses in season openers under Jay Gruden’s tenure. And quarterback Alex Smith and running back Adrian Peterson put successful team debuts in the books crucial for both the short-term goal of winning the game and the long-term intention of having a competitive season.

Smith completed 85 percent of his passes in the first half on his way to going 21-for-30, 255 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Peterson ran for 96 yards and a score and led the team in receiving with 70 yards.

Washington doubled up Arizona by out-gaining them 429 yards to 213 and had 38:08 in time of possession.

By halftime, boos rained down from a disappointed crowd at the newly-renamed State Farm Stadium. But the game did not turn out to be a beatdown, as the Redskins got sloppy toward the end when trying to put the game away.

Washington opened with a steady rushing attack. Peterson passed Marshall Faulk on the career rushing yards list on his first touch and also leapfrogged Jim Brown later in the quarter. Chris Thompson gained 13 and 14 yards on his first two carries. Even Smith showed off his mobility, earning two first downs with a sneak and a scramble.

After setting that tone on an unsuccessful first drive, they found the end zone on their next three. Thompson caught a 13-yard pass in the flat on the first play of the second quarter. As the defense caused consecutive three-and-outs, the offense kept chugging. Arizona looked unprepared when the Redskins switched from a run-heavy attack to three straight screen passes for gains of 23, 7 and 18 yards.

Peterson plunged in from one yard out for his first touchdown as a Redskin, with linebacker Ryan Anderson playing the role of fullback. And after a 92-yard drive that lasted just 3:11 aided by three straight defensive penalties Smith connected with Jordan Reed by the front-right pylon for a 4-yard touchdown.

Washington’s offense slowed down but chewed up clock in the third quarter, while the defense kept the game in firm control, thanks to Ryan Anderson’s first career sack and a Quinton Dunbar interception. Dunbar had a standout day in the defensive backfield. He flew in to break up two passes including a would-be huge gain for Larry Fitzgerald before his pick.

After three fruitless quarters, the Cardinals strung together a competent drive on offense on the back of backup running back Chase Edmonds. David Johnson, who signed a lucrative three-year contract extension Saturday night, punched in Arizona’s first score from the 2-yard line, but Bradford couldn’t complete a fade to the corner for a two-point conversion.

Rookie Christian Kirk broke a 44-yard punt return to set the Cardinals up in scoring range, and they got close to sparking a comeback. But consecutive drops by Johnson and Ricky Seals-Jones on third and fourth downs halted their last real chance.

They did get the ball back, though, on a bizarre play. Peterson gained 52 yards off a quick catch in the flat, but lost the ball in Arizona territory. The Cardinals had time for a few more meek attempts at offense, but Matt Ioannidis put them to bed with a strip-sack in the final seconds.

This post will be updated.

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