By now you have heard this game called a must win for the Washington Redskins. I am not sure it is a must win with so many games left in the season, but it is a should win. The St. Louis Rams have been one of the worst teams in football over the first three weeks of the season. In three games they have been outscored 96-36 while the Redskins have outscored opponents 66-53.
The Redskins are coming off a short week and will be playing a second consecutive road game, but those two things should be the only disadvantages the Redskins face in this game. The Rams at 0-3 are desperate to get their season back on the right path and in a division like the NFC West they might be able to get back in the thick of a race if they can pull off a couple wins in a row.
Last weeks game against the Dallas Cowboys was a defensive struggle as both teams failed multiple times to score a touchdown in the red zone and Dallas ended up winning the game on the strength of their defensive play and by being able to capitalize on Redskins mistakes. The St. Louis Rams defense should not provide the same challenges as the Cowboys. The Rams defense is ranked 31st in total yards allowed, 31st in point allowed, 19th in passing yards allowed, and 32nd in rushing yards allowed.
With the Rams having allowed so many rushing yards look for the Redskins to try and get Tim Hightower and Roy Helu going early in this game. So far in the season the Redskins rank 18th in yards per rushing attempt with 3.7. With Rex Grossman’s inconsistencies at quarterback the Redskins need to work to run the ball better. Playing a team like the Rams might be just what the Redskins rushers need to get their confidence going.
If the Redskins/Rams match-up seems like nothing to be confident about for Redskins fans it is because the Rams have beaten the Redskins three of the last four times they have met with most recent meetings coming early in the season when the Redskins still looked like they could have a chance at a decent season. The Rams are not the only poor football team the Redskins have lost to in recent years and I am sure most Redskins fans still aren’t over the loss to Detroit that ended their long losing streak.
The Redskins of the past had trouble getting up for important games against poor opponents. Part of this issue was thought to be the lack of discipline instilled by Jim Zorn, but when it continued last year under Mike Shanahan many saw it as a symptom of Dan Snyder’s ownership and the ability of star players to go over the head of their coach if displeased. Most of the players that could have been a problem last year are gone, and no one is going to accuse remaining veterans London Fletcher, Chris Cooley, and Santana Moss of having a bad work ethic.
One of the main goals of the Washington Redskins this off-season was to get players that fit the 3-4 defensive scheme better and with the Redskins ranked 5th in points allowed, 16th in yards allowed, 15th in passing yards allowed, and 11th in rushing yards allowed it appears to be working as the Redskins moved from the bottom half of the league in all defensive stats to the middle or top half in most this season.
The Rams offense is no longer the greatest show on turf. The Rams rank near the bottom of the league in most significant offensive categories except for rushing yards where they rank 11th. Sam Bradford is coming off an impressive rookie season, but has not taken many steps forward so far this season. Part of that might be due to an offensive line that has already allowed him to be sacked 11 times this season and the lack of quality receivers, and with Steven Jackson only getting six carries this year the Rams offense looks to be in some trouble.
Ryan Kerrigan was named the defensive rookie of the month for September and with good reason. He has been everything the Redskins have wanted him to be and maybe even a little bit more. He has added that second pass rushing threat the Redskins desperately needed to pair with Brian Orakpo. With LaRon Landry having just gotten his feet wet against the Cowboys and the Redskins team angry about losing that game they should win this one easily. The only thing that is going to stop them are themselves. If the Redskins continue to struggle with the running game, scoring touchdowns in the red zone, and turning the ball over then this game will be tougher than it should and could even end in a disappointing loss for the Redskins.
Up and down the roster Redskins players have claimed this is a different team ready to head in a new direction. This is a week where they can prove it. If they come out unprepared and don’t play well against a statistically inferior Rams team then the problems are much deeper than just the players jettisoned this past off-season and the coach before that. Dan Snyder claims to have turned over a new leaf and is letting the football team be run by the football people, and while a disappointing game this week won’t be proof he isn’t it sure won’t do much to dispel the feeling that these are the same old Redskins. Winning this game by a large margin will take care of that.