To outside observers, the Washington Commanders hosting the Arizona Cardinals was one of the least attractive matchups of Week 1. And sure, there are more compelling ways to kick off your NFL action than with two franchises with zero expectations this season, but that thought process missed the bigger picture.
For the first time in more than two decades, Daniel Snyder is no longer involved with the local professional football team. The toxic little dictator who ran a once-proud franchise into the ground is finally gone, giving the fanbase legitimate cause for optimism for the first time in ages. This explains why Washington, which hasn’t won a playoff game since 2005, had a bevy of celebrities and iconic former players in attendance Sunday.
Kevin Durant. Joel Embiid. Alex Ovechkin. Lindsay Vonn. Wale. Magic Johnson.
Champ Bailey. John Riggins. Sonny Jurgensen. Billy Kilmer. Joe Theismann. Dexter Manley. Charles Mann. Clinton Portis. Santana Moss. London Fletcher. Robert Griffin III.
Those big names, as well as 65,000 of their closest friends, packed into a sold-out FedEx Field to witness the dawn of a new day for the Commanders. And what they got was … well … a work in progress.
Quarterback Sam Howell and the Commanders’ offense had an uneven showing, turning the ball over three times and allowing six sacks. The fifth rounder and the offensive line were both highlighted as potential areas of concern by objective outsiders coming into the season, and both lived up to the billing. To that end, Washington actually trailed 16-10 at halftime, even though Arizona is widely considered the team most likely to tank this season away in hopes of a better draft pick.
The defense, led by defensive end Montez Sweat’s two forced fumbles and 1.5 sacks, created two fourth-quarter turnovers paving the way to a much-needed 20-16 victory. That said, while it’s nice to officially kick off the new era with a win, the Commanders clearly still have plenty of areas to improve upon moving forward. Better teams will come to town and be better prepared to capitalize on the types of mistakes that are easily overlooked against a mediocre opponent like the Cardinals.