The Redskins may have lost in dramatic fashion to the Houston Texans 30-27 in overtime at FedExField, but they took a step in earning an identity in the process.
The team is developing an aggressive personality on both sides of the ball, thanks to new schemes brought in by head coach Mike Shanahan, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and defensive coordinator Jim Haslett.
"I think it is [a more aggressive approach]," said running back Clinton Portis, who scored on a pair of 1-yard touchdown runs in the second quarter. "For so long, we've been conservative. Being up 17, we were going for the gusto and trying to put them away."
Linebacker London Fletcher sees the team's aggressive approach as well.
"If you look at some of the deep balls that the offense took, on 3rd and short and 3rd and medium, they were taking shots and not settling for short plays," Fletcher said. "From a defensive standpoint, we're always going to be aggressive. That's just how we're going to play. We're going to bring pressure in a lot of situations and then sometimes we're going to play coverage."
Against the Texans, Fletcher blitzed through the line and sacked quarterback Matt Schaub for an 8-yard loss midway through the fourth quarter.
Quarterback Donovan McNabb, who passed for 426 yards and a 119.0 passer rating, appreciates how the coaches are game planning and play calling.
"You've got to love an aggressive coach," McNabb said. "Kyle as well as Mike are two aggressive guys. You have to do something that puts the defensive coordinator on his heels. If he decides to blitz and we come up with a pass play that allows us to attack them downfield, that's obviously a bonus for us."
McNabb referenced one play, a deep pass to wide receiver Joey Galloway that occurred with 3:40 remaining in the 4th quarter and the offense facing a 3rd-and-13 from their 36-yard line.
Galloway had a step on the Texans defender in middle of the end zone but the ball was just out of his reach.
McNabb said he wasn't surprised by the play call and he mentioned they had talked about the situation earlier.
"We had talked on the sideline about their safeties being very aggressive and we expected them to go into a two shell [coverage], which led to possibly Joey [Galloway] vs. DeMeco Ryans down the middle of the field," McNabb said. "I tried to buy time by just stepping out of the pocket and giving him the opportunity to run up under it. It was just a little bit too far. Those opportunities are going to be there and we just have to be able to complete those."
Next week, the Redskins face the St. Louis Rams, and McNabb and company will get another opportunity to become more entrenched in the new system.
It may take some time.
For example, last season a New York Jets team under first-year head coach Rex Ryan installed a more aggressive defensive system. Players learned the defense's intricacies through the course of the season, and the Jets jelled late in the season. They rode their newfound confidence all the way to the AFC Championship game.
It may be Week 3, but every game counts when a team is learning, growing and improving. You never know where it can take you come December and January.