Redskins 9, Rams 7
Well, it's certainly nice to get one in the win column, but there's plenty to be unhappy about with Sunday's victory over the Rams. Let's talk about it, shall we?
Overall, despite scoring fewer points, the offense looked ten times better against the Rams than it did against the Giants. The problem, of course, is that the offense is supposed to look better against the Rams. The Giants boast a much better defense than St. Louis, so the Redskins ought to be more effective. Chris Cooley proved once again that he's perhaps the greatest single acquisition that the second Joe Gibbs era yielded here in Washington. He was all over the field, and his ball security was much better today than it was against the Giants.
Unfortunately, Mike Sellers and Santana Moss weren't quite as sure-handed. Sellers let a touchdown pass from Jason Campbell slip through his fingers, and Moss fumbled the ball away on a solid drive just before halftime. The Sellers play was particularly painful, as the Redskins weren't able to score a touchdown all day. Planting a foot in the end zone might have given Washington some positive momentum to prevent St. Louis from holding on all game, not to mention something positive to build on going forward. Word is, the Redskins' locker room was quiet and somber after the game, a rarity when you win. That doesn't sound like the tone of a team that feels good about their day.
I had told some colleagues that, had the Redskins lost on Sunday, I wouldn't have been surprised with a quarterback and/or head coaching change, and I don't think the victory did much to dissuade people from thinking a change might be necessary. I'd put both Campbell and Jim Zorn on the chopping block again; if the team can't beat a very unimpressive Lions team next weekend, I would expect a change. Before the St. Louis game, I'd have said Campbell would be the victim, but Campbell played pretty well against the Rams, while Zorn seemed hesitant to give Campbell the opportunity to succeed (or fail).
After the game, former Washington Redskins quarterback and local legend Sonny Jurgensen added a little fuel to the fire, saying that had Zorn given him a *halfback pass on third and goal* (see comments), he'd have changed the play. But Zorn displayed a kind of arrogance and distrust of his players in his response, saying that he'd have benched Jurgensen. Comments like that make me wonder how much confidence Zorn actually has in Campbell's ability to take another step and become a quality passer in this league.
Even if it was the lowly St. Louis Rams, the Redskins' defense still looked good. Lost in the hullabaloo over the Redskins' red zone ineptitude was the fact that the Rams were almost completely silenced on the offensive side of the ball. Marc Bulger threw for a paltry 125 yards, and outside of a tough 58-yard run by Steven Jackson, they rushed for just 68 yards on 20 rushing attempts. The team still has a ways to go before you can talk about them with the Ravens, Steelers, or Titans when you talk about great defenses of this decade, but they're closer than you might think.
The hallmark of many of those great defenses is that, when the team was in dire need of a stop, they always got it. Just this past Sunday, when the Chargers were rumbling down the field for a potential game-winning touchdown, Ray Lewis made an unbelievable play on Darren Sproles to win the game for Baltimore. Now, rewind it three hours to the Rams, down just two points and driving down for the potential go-ahead score. Bulger completes a pass to Donnie Avery inside the Redskins' 10-yard-line when Chris Horton puts his helmet on the ball, Carlos Rogers gobbles up the fumble, and the Redskins dodge a bullet.
Oh, and in their final two drives, the Rams gained a total of 3 yards on 7 plays. To me, that sounds like a "refuse to lose" defense. Was there a breakdown on the Steven Jackson run? Absolutely. And should they have been able to prevent Laurent Robinson from pulling down a TD on a fade pattern? Probably. But if you told me that the Redskins' defense would allow only two big plays every game for the rest of the season, I'd bet the farm on this being a playoff team.
Speaking of farms, Albert "Big Country" Haynesworth sure looked great, didn't he? The guy was busting up passes and runs alike, proving that he might just be worth the mammoth contract that Washington gave him. I personally have always liked Haynesworth, despite some of his red flags (stepping on another player's head, etc). I'm hopeful that he'll be able to stay healthy and be the anchor that this defense has so desperately needed. So far, so so good.
Special Teams: C+
Sometimes it's best if the special teams get no real attention at all after the game. The Redskins made no noticeable mistakes on special teams; the coverage teams didn't fail, they didn't miss a field goal, and Hunter Smith was again a solid punter. You'd like to get some more explosiveness out of your return guys, but there's nothing to really complain about here. I wish I had more analysis of the special teams crew, but there's really just nothing more to say.
I know, I know, I'm giving the Redskins far too much credit for their defensive accomplishments against a lackluster Rams offense. I don't care. This is a team that was extremely stingy on defense last season, and acquired the premier defensive lineman available in free agency. There's no reason to think that the defense can't be better than it was last year, and that puts it near the top of the league. If Campbell can start to finish out drives with touchdowns instead of field goals, I don't see any reason this can't be an eleven- or twelve-win team. No reason whatsoever.
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