The Washington Redskins went about business as usual on Thursday night, as they opened up their preseason slate with a 23-6 win over New England at FedEx Field.
Things went about as well as Washington fans could've hoped for from a preseason debut -- the offense moved the ball, the defense kept the Patriots out of the end zone and off the scoreboard until the game's final minutes and special teams was solid.
Most of the Redskins' first-team offense that did play on Thursday was off the field after its first offensive series -- which ended in Kai Forbath's 39-yard field goal -- but it was a promising showing from top to bottom. The ground game in particular was noteworthy, as eight different rushers combined for 177 yards on 44 carries (an average of 4 yards per rush) while Washington controlled the clock. The quarterbacks also combined for 210 yards and two touchdowns, as Kirk Cousins (9-for-13, 103 yards, 1 TD) and Colt McCoy (8-for-9, 102 yards, 1 TD) did the heavy lifting.
The defense held New England scoreless until the 1:23 mark of the fourth quarter and limited the Patriots to 270 yards of total offense, although Washington did not have to see quarterback Tom Brady and didn't face nearly the same offense that New England will trot out in week one of the regular season.
Washington's kicking game was also strong, as Forbath and rookie Zach Hocker combined to hit 3 of 4 field goals.
All of that added up to plenty of good vibes for Washington and its fans following Thursday's victory, even it was just the first week of the preseason. And if you check out the Redskins website, you'll see plenty of positive hype surrounding head coach Jay Gruden's first win as a Redskin and how it is a sign of good things to come.
But when you take a peek behind the veil that Redskins owner Dan Snyder has thrown over all team-owned media, which is conveniently ignorant to the biggest storyline surrounding the franchise right now -- the Redskins name controversy -- you see a franchise that is hardly operating as "normal" these days.
The entire controversy surrounding the use of the term "Redskin" isn't new. The topic has been well documented.
But it's picking up a full head of steam.
Just a few days ago, it was revealed that the University of Minnesota, which is leasing its football stadium to the Vikings for the next two seasons and has very strong ties with local Native American tribes, has issued a very direct and up front request to both the Vikings and the Redskins, who will square off in Minnesota on Nov. 2.
The request? The university wants the Vikings to insist that Washington wear throwback uniforms that do not feature the Redskins name or logo. In addition, the University of Minnesota has asked that the Vikings not sell Washington memorabilia, that the Vikings' public address announcer not use the word "Redskins" and that the name not appear on the scoreboard, in the program guide or other game-related print or digital material.
Apparently the Vikings have seemed receptive to the request, but the team itself likely has no power to enforce such a demand without backing from the NFL and can only ask Washington to abide by the request.
And the name controversy storm doesn't stop there. Earlier this week, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley reportedly posted on his Facebook account that it was "probably time" to change the nickname of Washington's football franchise. (President Barack Obama, of course, has also already stated that he'd consider changing the name if he owned the Redskins -- that's not exactly a direct stance, but it's something). The pressure seems to be hitting closer and closer to home, and more and more politicians starting to weigh in on the debate.
You have to wonder how much longer NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will be able to deflect this issue, particularly if more situations arise like the one in Minnesota.
Sooner or later, Goodell is going to have to take action. This topic isn't going away. Will the issue in Minnesota be the tipping point? We'll find out. But when Goodell finally does take action, Snyder and many of the Washington faithful aren't going to like the outcome.
Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org