How do you open up the NFL season? With a Sunday night game between the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys at FedEx Field. The Redskins slid past the Cowboys 13-7 in a game that came down to the final tick. A holding call on Dallas’ Alex Barron negated a touchdown and gave Washington their first divisional victory since the 2008 season. It wasn’t pretty, but the home team will take it. Over 90,000 fans witnessed the start to the Donovan McNabb/Mike Shanahan era in D.C. and the AFRO was on hand for it all.

First Down: 3-4 Galore

Defense, Defense, Defense. Washington has been sporting a solid stop unit for the last few years but holding the high-powered Cowboys to seven points is a feat that should flood this unit with confidence that could last the whole season. Operating in their new 3-4 alignment, Washington pressured Dallas signal caller Tony Romo all night and swarmed the Cowboys’ running game. Cover corner DeAngelo Hall’s 32-yard fumble return before halftime was huge for the club. Washington’s offense struggled as the newly minted McNabb couldn’t get the offense to click. But the defense saved the day and their odd front formation could vault this unit to top-notch status this year.

Second Down: Landry Lays Lumber

Washington strong safety LaRon Landry has struggled over the past two seasons trying to maintain his duties as a free safety. This season however, Landry has taken his talents to the strong side and introduced fans to his new position in royal fashion with 17 tackles (13 solo). Landry could be a force in his new rover role where he can flatten ball carriers and destroy everything in front of him. Taking Landry away from the action and sitting him in centerfield was never a good idea to begin with, but the team is making amends for it now. The fourth-year veteran out of LSU has rare talent for the position and this could be the season where he finally puts it to good use.

Third Down: Redskin Nation

Exactly 90,670 fans showed up on Sunday night to give Washington its largest crowd in team history to witness a home opener. Although many in attendance were Cowboys fans, the noisy audience was mostly covered in burgundy and gold. After a lackluster ’09 campaign where, during late-season games FedEx Field often looked more like a ghost town, Redskins owner Daniel Snyder has been able to put a product on the field that loyal fans showed up in full force to support. Although it’s fairly easy to sell out a NFL game in Washington when Dallas is involved, Sunday’s win, coupled with some new faces on the sidelines, should keep fan support flowing for the first few home stints.


Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO