CHARLOTTE --- Of the 11 defensive coordinators who debuted on Sunday, only five secured the coveted Week 1 win, just two from the NFC. Thanks to a critical Mario Addison sack in the closing seconds of a season-opening win against Dallas, first-year coordinator Eric Washington is among that number.
"The players did an excellent job of executing and just making sure that signatures of what we want to be about were all over the field in certain situations," Washington said to open his Monday press conference. "That's not to suggest that we were perfect, but I was really excited about the effort, the energy, about how we worked together."
Plays like Addison's sack and forced fumble are a direct result in Washington's eyes of the work the team does in practice through intense individual workouts.
"The individual period during practice is a grind, and it's for that particular situation at the end of the game," Washington said. "You want to have the technique, the fundamentals, the instinct and the conditioning, mental and physical, to be able to produce in those situations."
Production was the least of the defense's worries in the 16-8 victory. From linebacker David Mayo's tackle for a loss on a Ezekiel Elliott rush on the first play of the game to Addison's game-sealing stop, the defense showed Washington and his staff that they were ready to make an impact throughout the game.
Dallas' star running back was limited to 69 yards on 15 carries while the Cowboys offense converted only two of their 11 third-down attempts, successes Washington credited first-year offensive coordinator Norv Turner's offense - and their 30:36 time of possession - for helping create.
"Naturally, their offense has a limited opportunity to possess and move the football, so I love it when we grind out long, time-consuming drives, that always benefits us," Washington said.
With Thomas Davis suspended, linebacker was a big position of emphasis coming into the game, and the core didn't disappoint. Luke Kuechly led the team with the 13 tackles while Shaq Thompson stepped up with nine tackles and a momentum-shifting sack on quarterback Dak Prescott in the second quarter. Prescott completed 19 of his 29 passes and was hit 10 times, including 6 sacks.
When asked about Kuechly's day, Washington raved about the seven-year pro's play. "He was outstanding. He played out of his mind. Without taking that for granted a little bit, that's who Luke Kuechly is," he said.
"He can do a lot of things for you on the grass, but he was really key in diagnosing some of the things that they presented to us."
Being able to adjust was a task assigned not only to Kuechly and Co. but also to Washington as he moves on from having coached the defensive line for seven seasons. Week 1 was an important time to make these adjustments, and Washington said he feels "extremely comfortable" after his dominant debut.
"It was bond that I had with that particular position group that I had been working with for a long time and I still love," Washington said. "But when the role changes you have to adjust. My role is different now."
Head coach Ron Rivera gave his stamp of approval in his evaluation of Washington's debut.
"I like the way he mixed it up with the calls...I'm really pleased with the way they handled the stuff on the sidelines," Rivera said. "I thought those guys communicated very well in terms of the coaches. I thought the adjustments were really good."