It was a combination of smash-mouth offense and sound defense--the style of football that Joe Gibbs often employed during his first tenure as head coach of the Washington Redskins.
The result? A 17-0 shutout over the injury-depleted Miami Dolphins, as Washington improved its preseason record to 2-1. It was certainly the Redskins' most impressive performance of the preseason so far.
And it wasn't just impressive. It was dominating.
The Redskins out-gained the Dolphins 381 to 91 in total yardage. The defense stymied Miami's offense at every turn, pressuring quarterbacks A.J. Feeley and Jay Fiedler repeatedly and limiting running back Travis Minor to 15 yards rushing.
"Last week against Carolina [a 23-20 loss], we kind of took it to heart when we turned the ball over four times," Gibbs said. "I was real pleased that we made the corrections there. We didn't turn the ball over, we played smart and our defense continued to play well. Those are all good signs."
Gibbs turned the ball over to his running backs throughout most of the game. He rushed the ball 52 times, as Clinton Portis, John Simon, Rock Cartwright and Sultan McCullough combined for 178 rushing yards.
"When you get a lead like we did, you're going to run the ball more and you're going to have more opportunities on offense," Gibbs said. "I felt like we responded. We'll take a look at the film and I'm sure there'll be a lot to learn. But I felt like we did run the ball better."
"Coach Gibbs thinks I'm a machine," Portis said, jokingly. "To be serious, we basically were just trying to get the offense established. We wanted to go out and get some long drives early on. The running game just happened to be going."
Mark Brunell was 7-of-9 for 79 yards and quarterbacked the Redskins to two first-half touchdowns. Ramsey took over in the second half and was 3-of-8 for 41 yards.
The game began with a pair of University of Miami alums, Portis and rookie safety Sean Taylor, both making an impact.
On Miami's game-opening drive, Taylor stripped the ball loose from Dolphins wide receiver Chris Chambers and recovered the fumble.
On the ensuing drive, Portis led the offense on a 8-play, 63-yard drive, with Portis's 1-yard dive giving the Redskins a 7-0 edge. He rushed seven times for 37 yards and had a 22-yard scamper down the left sideline. After scoring, Portis was promptly removed from the game, his night finished. He was replaced first by Cartwright, then Simon and McCullough.
In the second quarter, the Redskins built on their lead with a 1-yard touchdown run by Cartwright. The score completed a 10-play, 43-yard drive highlighted by the running and receiving of Simon. The third-year tailback, now in his second season as a Redskin, accounted for 33 yards on the drive.
Simon may have elevated his standing in the team's backup running back competition. For the game, Simon rushed 12 times for 43 yards and also had four receptions for 42 yards.
The Redskins added a 26-yard field goal by Ola Kimrin, but the defense had the game in control from the outset. Just when it appeared the Dolphins were establishing some momentum, the defense toughened up. Midway through the third quarter, with Miami near midfield, Fiedler dove for a first down on a 4th and 1 play. Fiedler was stripped of the ball and veteran linebacker Kevin Mitchell recovered.
The Redskins played conservatively on offense, running the clock down in the third and fourth quarters.
Gibbs had gotten what he wanted out of his players: progress.
"Each week you want to see more and do better, continuing to polish things." Gibbs said. "Last week, I felt like in a couple of areas, we took a step back. Certainly on offense we did; we turned the ball over four times. So what you want to see--and we're starting to see it--is steady progress and you want to try to eliminate the mistakes from the week before. I felt like last week we backed up in some areas."