Slow Start In Desert Dooms

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Washington Football Team defensive tackle Jonathan Allen (93) and Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (11) talk during the Sept. 20 game in Glendale, Ariz., where the Washington Football Team lost 30-15. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri
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By Mark F. Gray
AFRO Staff Writer
mgray@afro.com

When DeAndre Hopkins was sent from the Houston Texans to the Arizona Cardinals it must have flown under the radar how it would affect week two for Washington. Hopkins, who is on the short list of candidates for best receiver in the NFL terrorized Washington as the burgundy and gold got a heat check in the desert.

Hopkins caught eight passes for 68 yards with one touchdown for the Cardinals 30-15 win.
”There was never a doubt in our mind that we’d start like this,” Hopkins said. ”The team in the locker room we have is a lot of veterans, a lot of good young guys. To be 2-0 is what we expected.”

 It was clear, however, that Washington’s commitment to making sure he wasn’t the electrifying force, which has made him an all pro, that kept him somewhat in check.   

Washington’s defense had no answers for Arizona’s Kyler Murray, who is morphing into the 2020 version of 2019 NFL MVP Lamar Jackson. Murray finished the game with 286 yards passing and a touchdown, while rushing for 87 yards and another two scores. He took what the defense gave him than he did more as the Cardinals opened a 20-0 lead as the trend of slow starts continued for Washington.

”We played two teams today, them and ourselves. That’s the truth of the matter,”  said Washington coach Ron Rivera. ”We hurt ourselves in that first half. We get into third-and-long situations and give up big plays. We take the ball away and we give it right back. We force a punt, we fumble the football. We can’t do those things.”

In their personal battle of second year quarterbacks Murray proved to be light years ahead of Dwayne Haskins. Haskins, once again started slow and wasn’t able to rally the troops as he did against the Philadelphia Eagles a week earlier. He finished a respectable 19/33 for 223 yards with a touchdown pass to Terry McLaurin.

Haskins is playing without benefit of a true running game and when he tried to pass in the first half their offensive line buckled, leaving him to fend for himself. Washington’s inability to occupy the ball with a time consuming drive to give the defense a break before halftime, magnified with the installation of a new offense without a full training camp and offseason, makes the opening weeks of the regular season still preseason offensively.

”A new offense, a new scheme,” Haskins said. ”Basically, on offense the whole team is under 25. It is a work in process. The biggest thing is come to work every day with your lunch pail and try to get better.”

The Cardinals are a legitimate playoff contender and played with swag about themselves throughout the game.  Washington looked unsure early, while Arizona was confident and the outcome reflected the obvious.  These teams are polar opposites in the NFC.

This week Washington faces the Cleveland Browns in an early season litmus test for credibility.  The Browns may not be a championship contender, but this week is a chance for Washington to validate themselves as more than just a one-week wonder.