The feeling coming into this game was that the Redskins had to win by a wide margin to prove they were truly a new team after failing to close out the Cowboys on Monday night. With a 17-0 lead after their first possession of the second half it looked like the Redskins were going to win this one easily. That is not how it ended up as Grossman had one pass tick off the hands of Santana Moss into the arms of a Rams defender for a 51 yard return that resulted in a Rams field goal, then the Rams scored a touchdown after a Sav Rocca punt as the Redskins offense continued to stall, and then Grossman made an ill advised pass to James Laurinaitis of the Rams. The Redskins defense made sure the Rams were unable to capitalize on the Laurinaitis interception, but by that time the Rams had already pulled within seven.
The Rams touchdown drive was helped by what some might say is a Redskins mistake, but what might instead be a strange rule change that resulted from the lockout. Redskins defender Rob Jackson was called for roughing the passer that tacked ten yards onto Bradford’s eight yard completion to Austin Pettis. The problem with calling this roughing the passer is that when Jackson began his tackle Bradford still had the ball. Jackson only did what every other defensive football player should do and finished his tackle. It should not be a penalty to play hard until the whistle blows. The Rams might have still scored on the drive but the 10 extra yards cannot have hurt. Overall the Redskins defense deserves credit in this game as they were able to sack Sam Bradford six times and held Steven Jackson to 45 yards rushing.
The Redskins passing attack was not good as Grossman was 15 for 29 for 143 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. The big story offensively in this game was the sudden emergence of Ryan Torain who before this game had yet to get a carry in the regular season. With the combination of Hightower and Helu being held to 3.7 yards a carry before Sunday the Redskins rushing attack needed a spark. Torain’s 135 yards on 17 attempts might be exactly the spark the Redskins needed. It has to be imagined that Ryan Torain just earned himself a bigger roll in the Redskins offense and his performance in this game might be why the Redskins were able to convert on 50% of their third downs.
A lot of new players were added in the off-season in order to help the Redskins in multiple facets of the game. None has been bigger this season than rookie Ryan Kerrigan. After being named defensive rookie of the month in September he started off October by recording five tackles, a sack, and forcing a fumble that led to a Redskins touchdown. Kerrigan has been everything the Redskins have needed on defense. He is the perfect cliche of a defender who is in on every play, always has his motor running, and makes the offense aware of his presence before the ball is snapped. Paired with Brian Orakpo the Redskins now have one of the better passing rushing duos in football.
As much credit as the Redskins defense deserves the errors made by the Rams offense cannot be ignored. Numerous receivers dropped passes and the offensive line was in shambles. Sam Bradford has already been sacked 18 times on the year which puts him on pace to be sacked 72 times. The modern record for the most sacked quarterback in a season is David Carr who was sacked 76 times in the 2002 season. Sam Bradford looked shell shocked at times against the Redskins as his receivers continued to drop passes and his offensive line continued to play ole with the Redskins pass rush. All of this leads to the feeling that this game should not have come down to the wire.
It would have been nice for the Redskins to have come into St. Louis and blow out the Rams and look like a football team truly ready to take the step to the next level, and even though that didn’t happen the Redskins still might have shown who they are. As much as the talk has been about the Redskins being a new team, and as much as that might be true with player turnover, they still are not a team ready to contend for a championship. What was seen against the Rams might be exactly who the Redskins are. A defensive football team with an offense lead by an inconsistent quarterback and that lacks depth on the offensive line and at wide receiver.
This identity is nothing that the Redskins weren’t pegged with before the season began. Not many people were expecting this vast of an improvement from the defense, and it has led to an unexpected 3-1 record. The Redskins now head into their off week having to find a way to score enough points on offense and figure out if they can build off of this early success.