- - Monday, September 25, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

LANDOVER — If I was Jay Gruden, I might have stopped at the nearby MGM National Harbor Sunday night and put some money on black.

He had the number of the silver and black all night Sunday, winning nearly every bet he placed on his Redskins team in a 27-10 beat down over the favored Oakland Raiders.

This was as dominant a game the Redskins have played under Gruden, perhaps back to another Sunday Night Football win last year, that one the 42-24 win over the Green Bay Packers.

The defense created opportunities, stifling the Raiders offense, holding them to just 128 yards, and making life miserable for Oakland quarterback Derek Carr — he of the $125 million contract — with four sacks and two interceptions. It was such a shutdown of a good offensive team that you had to wonder if Washington knew what Oakland was calling.

Kirk Cousins made the most of those opportunities, completing 25 of 30 passes for 365 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.

It was Gruden, though, who was pushing all the right buttons on the sidelines.

“The last one is always the best one,” Gruden said. “We’re happy about it. We can enjoy it for a couple of more hours and then on to Kansas City.

“All around, I was very impressed with the entire offense,” he said. “There is still a lot to correct. We’ve got to get some work done. We had a couple of drives there in the first quarter I wasn’t happy with. But for the most part, yes, I was happy with the way they competed….really, our defense gave us so many opportunities. I mean, we had turnovers, good field position. So it goes hand-in-hand. They gave us a lot of possessions at it, a lot of cracks, so the more opportunities, the better we’re going to be.”

It all clicked for Washington, right from the opening drive by the Raiders, when Carr’s deep throw to Amari Cooper was intercepted by Redskins rookie Montae Nicholson.

Cousins marched his team down the field 67 yards on eight plays, finding the end zone with a 22-yard touchdown pass to the team MVP so far this year, running back Chris Thompson (six catches for 150 yards, eight carries for 38 yards rushing).

Then, when Cousins got the ball about halfway through the second quarter, the Gruden offensive machine buzzed down the field on 11 plays for 72 yards, with Cousins finding Vernon Davis in the end zone for an 18-yard score to put the Redskins up 14-0.

After someone named Josh Doctson then scored on a 52-yard pass from Cousins at the start of the third quarter for a 21-0 Washington lead, a visit to the roulette table at the MGM seemed like the logical next move.

This was a conversation-changing win for the Redskins, who now have to be viewed as a competitive game moving forward for any opponent – even the Kansas City Chiefs on the road on Monday Night Football next week.

Still, Gruden, as coach, has to prove he can get his team ready to play every week – particularly in the weeks of December. But this was an important, validating win for the coach, especially in front of the home FedEx Field crowd.

Last week’s 27-20 win over the Rams in Los Angeles was an important win for Gruden, since the narrative before the game had been about how the student, Sean McVay, might be a better coach than his teacher, Gruden. That had to gnaw at Gruden, so it must have been satisfying to come away with that victory.

However, the Rams game was seen on the schedule as a win before the season started. The Raiders were not.

It’s been a while since Gruden has been able to stand up in a postgame press conference at FedEx Field and not apologize for his coaching and his team’s play. Two weeks ago, in a home loss to Philadelphia, Gruden was visibly shook by the defeat. So Sunday night was a relief.

“Getting one at home, I didn’t care if it was prime time or 1 o’clock or midnight,” Gruden said. “Just getting one at home…we’ve lost the last two or three at home, which is disappointing, by any stretch. So to get one at home on primetime against a team like the Raiders is satisfying.”

• Thom Loverro hosts his weekly podcast “Cigars & Curveballs” Wednesdays available on iTunes, Google Play and the reVolver podcast network.

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