Alex Smith looked like his old self. So did Adrian Peterson. When the 34-year-old Smith wasn’t carving up the Arizona defense, the 33-year-old Peterson was running through it.
The result was a 24-6 Washington victory on Sunday, coach Jay Gruden’s first win in a season opener in five tries, and it was even more dominant than the final score would indicate.
“You guys put that monkey there. You guys kept reminding me about the dang 0-4 start,” Gruden said. “It counts as one game. I told our team we are 1-0 and now it is time we have to put back-to-back games together.”
Smith and Peterson were playing their first game as Redskins and the two veterans made an impact from the start.
“I thought the way we came out moving the ball, finishing drives in the red zone was big,” Smith said. “It certainly started with running the football. I thought our O-line was dominant.”
Smith, acquired from Kansas City in the offseason to replace Kirk Cousins, completed 21 of 30 passes without an interception and had TD throws of 13 yards to Chris Thompson and 4 yards to Jordan Reed. Peterson rushed for 96 yards on 26 carries, including a 1-yard touchdown run.
“The sky is the limit (for this offense),” Peterson said. “Alex is doing a great job running this offense and for the past couple of weeks I have seen these receivers go out in practice and grind. The offensive line speaks for itself and then you add C.T. (Chris Thompson) in there. That young guy got me going today.”
Peterson, who played for Arizona a year ago and signed with Washington as a free agent on Aug. 20, finished his day with a 52-yard reception, but fumbled at the end of the play.
The Redskins outgained the Cardinals 429-213 and had 30 first downs to Arizona’s 14 and it was even more one-sided before the Cardinals showed some life late in the game. Washington rushed for 182 yards to Arizona’s 68.
“The nemesis right now is just stopping the run,” Wilks said. “…Tackling was an issue.”
Arizona avoided a shutout when David Johnson ran 2 yards for a touchdown with 5:47 to play.
Johnson, who signed a three-year, $39 million contract extension with Arizona on Saturday night with $30 million guaranteed, carried nine times for 37 yards and caught five passes for 30 yards.
“I’m not even thinking about the contract,” he said. “I’m thinking about the loss and what I did wrong, the mental errors, dropped catches and how bad I played.”
Sam Bradford, in his debut as Cardinals quarterback, was 20 of 34 for 153 yards and was intercepted once.
The Redskins manhandled the Arizona defense in a dominant first half to lead 21-0 at the break. And the Arizona team under the new coaching regime was booed roundly as it left the field.
The statistics were stunningly one-sided through the first two quarters: 261 yards for the Redskins to 36 yards for the Cardinals. Smith completed 17 of 20 passes for 171 yards and two touchdowns. Bradford, meanwhile, was 3 of 7 for 11 yards. Washington had the ball for 22 minutes, 57 seconds to the Cardinals’ 7:03.
“We had three possessions in the first half and we’re down 21-0 at halftime,” Bradford said. “It’s tough on the defense, it’s tough on the offense.”
Arizona got two first downs on its first possession and went three-and-out the only other two times it had the ball in the first half.
Washington, meanwhile, had touchdown drives of 80, 73 and 92 yards behind a powerful rushing game and the efficient management of Smith.
The first scoring drive went 80 yards in 11 plays, Smith went 13 yards to Thompson on the first play of the second quarter for the score.
After Arizona’s first three-and-out, Washington used up 9:06 in a 15-play, 73-yard drive, Peterson plowing in from the 1-yard line to make it 14-0.
The Cardinals went nowhere again and the Redskins took advantage of their last chance of the half.
Smith completed 7 of 7 passes for 77 yards in a 10-play, 92-yard drive. Smith threw 4 yards to Reed for the touchdown and it was 21-0 with 8 seconds left in the half.
Washington will host Indianapolis on Sunday, seeking its first 2-0 start since 2011.