Early on in this game the Redskins knew they would have a long day ahead of them. After allowing a 42-yard touchdown run by Stephen Jackson on the opening drive, the Skins fumbled the ball on their first possession and the Rams quickly responded with a touchdown pass by Sam Bradford to take a 14-0 lead after just six minutes elapsed in the first quarter. The Skins did score 13 unanswered points and Philip Daniels blocked a field goal to end the first half, but the rest of the game belonged to Bradford and the Rams defense. Donovan McNabb had a frustrating day because the Skins defense could not get off the field and they allowed the Rams to gain 133 rushing yards. The Skins also turned over the ball twice, had a punt blocked, and the offensive line looked disjointed partly due to Trent Williams’ injury. The 30-16 victory by the Rams is only their second in the last 19 games. While the 1-2 start should not cause panic at Ashburn, there are some major concerns about the Skins’ inability to stop opposing offenses and the lack of depth at key positions.
Positives – The running game finally worked. Clinton Portis, Ryan Torain, and McNabb each had a run of over 20 yards, and the team finished with 116 yards on the ground (6.8 yards per carry). While Portis did not play for much of the second half, he looked comfortable on the stretch plays and zone blocking that Mike Shanahan is famous for. Even Torain proved to be a much better backup than Larry Johnson. The run blocking should continue to improve when Williams comes back. Also, despite losing the fumble on the first drive, Santana Moss had a strong game and showed that he has not lost his deep speed. Moss caught 6 catches for 124 yards and a touchdown (the longest catch going for 56 yards). His play is critical given the lack of proven receivers on this squad. Defensively, perhaps the biggest bright spot was Laron Landry who is playing at a Pro Bowl level this season. He had a tackle for loss and looked solid covering the middle zone of the field.
Negatives – Whether it is the new 3-4 scheme, the lack of proper personnel, or the result of poor tackling, the Skins defense has given up more yards than any other team in the NFC this season. The Rams did adjust well to the Skins blitz packages, but they ran the ball with ease and Bradford had plenty of time to throw the ball, particularly in the second half. Bradford may very well become a great quarterback in time but you can’t give a rookie that much leeway. The tackling by the Skins secondary was awful at times. Some players could not even get the right footing on the artificial turf of the Edward Jones Dome causing missed tackles and lapses in coverage. Jim Haslett may need to make some adjustments and possibly utilize more 4-man fronts to best utilize the current personnel. There is also a Jekyll-and-Hide situation occurring with the special teams unit. For every great play there is also a major mistake. In this game, Daniels’ blocked field goal was offset by the blocked punt on Graham Gano (subbing for injured Josh Bidwell). Likewise, the forced fumble by Reed Doughty on a kickoff was offset by Phillip Buchanon’s muff on a punt return, which he fumbled out of bounds. The injury to Bidwell is concerning. It looks uncertain whether he’ll play next week, so the Skins will most likely bring in a new punter. There is a lot of work remaining with a trip to Philly upcoming.