The jokes started flying on the sideline just as quickly as the sacks began piling up.
“We were just like, ‘Who’s it gonna be next?’” said outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan. “It was such a great feeling. It was unlike anything I’ve ever been a part of before — to get that many sacks and just to play the kind of defense we played.”
In a performance overshadowed by that of their offensive counterparts, the Washington Redskins’ defense matched a team record with 10 sacks on Sunday, helping them claim a 41-10 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Redskins also held Jacksonville to 148 total yards of offense. Had it not been for a 63-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter and a 54-yard reception in the third, the Jaguars would only have gained 31 yards on the afternoon.
Washington’s pass rush was a big reason why. With Jacksonville’s receivers routinely covered downfield and its running game nonexistent, the Redskins were able to attack quarterback Chad Henne, hitting the Jaguars for loss after loss.
All told, the Redskins combined for 74 yards on their sacks, with Kerrigan tying an individual record by dropping four. Defensive end Jason Hatcher and inside linebacker Perry Riley were each credited for 1.5 sacks, while outside linebacker Brian Orakpo and defensive end Frank Kearse each had one and free safety Ryan Clark and inside linebacker Keenan Robinson shared one.
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The Redskins sacked Henne on 10 of the Jaguars’ 12 possessions, including eight of their last nine. With 7:28 remaining in the second quarter — the start of Jacksonville’s fifth drive — the Jaguars had not gained a single first down and had gained one total yard.
“When you’re a professional, that’s definitely not something you want to put in your résumé — and we did,” said Jaguars center Jacques McClendon. “You never expect to put up the kind of numbers we did. It’s really inexcusable.”
Washington’s defensive performance stood in stark contrast to that of its opener in Houston, when the only sack, a 5-yard loss attributed to Hatcher, was recalled and changed to a fumble.
With nose tackle Barry Cofield out after sustaining a high right ankle sprain against the Texans, and defensive end Kedric Golston unable to play after straining his left groin, the Redskins were left with five healthy defensive linemen Sunday.
In order to get a respite, the game plan was simple: Stop the Jaguars’ running game, force their offense into obvious passing situations and lean on nickel packages that would give the defensive linemen a break.
Jaguars running back Toby Gerhart finished with just eight yards on seven carries — including three yards on three carries in the first quarter.
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“It shows the type of people we have up front, and that’s what we build this defense on — being able to stop the run first, which we did,” Clark said. “When you have guys like [Kerrigan] and Orakpo on the outside, and the push up the middle — that’s what you’re supposed to do. We should be proud of what we accomplished today, but it’s just a start. We need to be better, and we’ll come back next week against a better team.”
Kerrigan wasn’t necessarily the most active, but he was the most visible. He dropped Henne for the first time in the second quarter, when the quarterback rolled out to his right and was left one-on-one with Kerrigan shadowing him.
He then sacked Henne on consecutive plays in the third quarter — on the first, Henne tried to tuck the ball and run with Kearse shedding his block — and then took the quarterback to the ground with 1:46 remaining for good measure.
Kerrigan nearly even had a third of a sack, if such things were credited, when he came in late to help Clark and Robinson drop Henne with 4:37 left in the third quarter.
“That was definitely one of the most fun days I’ve had playing defense, and it was a great day for all of us,” said Kerrigan, who said he had five sacks in one game in high school and four in one game while playing at Purdue. “We only had one [turnover], but when you’re holding them to that few yardage and getting great pressure on the quarterback, you can’t complain too much.”
That interception came early in the fourth quarter, when Trenton Robinson, in for the struggling Bacarri Rambo at strong safety, returned an underthrown pass 14 yards. Rambo appeared responsible for the 63-yard touchdown pass from Henne to tight end Marcedes Lewis, when he was turned around and out of position on the reception.
Throughout offseason workouts, training camp and the preseason, defensive players maintained they were excited about the possibilities on defense because coordinator Jim Haslett would be allowed to be more aggressive.
“We’ve got some dominant guys, man,” Orakpo said. “We’ve got some guys that can really take over. We haven’t had a game like this in a while where, you know, we had a comfortable lead to unleash the dogs.”