By Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 27, 2010; 12:14 AM
ST. LOUIS - After making many poor decisions in his first 11 seasons as owner, Daniel Snyder hired a proven winner in Coach Mike Shanahan, provided support for the new head of the Redskins' football operation and moved into the background to let Shanahan work alone out front.
And it appears Snyder must do one more thing for Shanahan: Be patient.
The rebuilding process could take a while, which was evident again Sunday as the struggling St. Louis Rams raced to an early lead and pulled away late during a 30-16 victory over the Redskins at the Edward Jones Dome.
Although the Rams have only two victories in their last 29 games and seven in their past 51, they were 14 points better than the Redskins, who endured a similarly frustrating experience last season in Week 3. That was when the hapless Lions stunned the Redskins in Detroit. It was the Rams in the third week this time.
Players did not envision losing to either team - but lose they definitely did.
"First and foremost, to lose games to these teams, it's just very frustrating," center Casey Rabach said. "These are teams that we should . . . not taking anything away from this team. This team is definitely improved from where it had been. But we need to find ways to win this game. We have to."
The Rams (1-2) got three fourth-quarter field goals from place kicker Josh Brown and repeatedly stopped the Redskins on third down to win before an announced crowd of 52,370. The Redskins wasted a personal-best three field goals by place kicker Graham Gano, who also handled punting duties after punter Josh Bidwell suffered a pregame injury.
They were outscored 16-0 to close the game, after briefly taking their only lead on one of Gano's short kicks early in the third. Washington rushed for only one yard in the second half and converted 1 of 10 third-down attempts in the game. St. Louis was successful on 7 of 16 third-down plays.
"Third downs," Shanahan said. "You kept on taking a look at third and 10, third and eight, third and 11. They did a great job on their third downs. And like I said, any time we're 10 percent . . ."
Rams rookie quarterback Sam Bradford outperformed 12-year Redskins veteran Donovan McNabb in the best outing of his nascent career. "Awesome," Bradford said of the victory. "There's no doubt."
Bradford made plays to extend drives, which helped the Rams overcome the loss of star running back Steven Jackson, who suffered a groin injury late in the second quarter and did not return to the game. For the second time in as many weeks, the Redskins' defense again struggled to get off the field down the stretch.
After an opening victory over the Dallas Cowboys, Washington (1-2) has dropped two in a row and next faces the NFC East-division leading Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. It will be their first contest against Philadelphia since McNabb was traded from that team last spring.
The Redskins are not playing well and have problems to overcome, players said, so it seems they may have an even longer road back under Shanahan than some initially believed.
"Every year there's a team that we should beat, that we should jump on early and put 'em away, and they end up jumping on us," cornerback Carlos Rogers said. "Just like last year [against Detroit], they jumped on us and we couldn't make the plays to get off the field. You just don't expect it. I didn't expect it."
Said defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth: "We kind of expected: 'Oh, this is the Rams. We're gonna come in here and just beat em.' But they're an NFL team, too."
The game began horribly for the Redskins, who trailed 14-0 within the first seven minutes. Actually, their misfortune began during warmups, when Bidwell suffered an injury to his hip, which had been arthroscopically repaired.
"That doesn't happen very often," Shanahan said. "Something popped. We are not sure what it is, but it was his hip."
Gano, who also punted in college, sent the opening kickoff out of bounds for a penalty before the first play from scrimmage (Later, filling in for Bidwell, he had his first punt blocked). The Rams started at their 40 and relied on the running game.
Jackson's impressive 42-yard touchdown run capped the opening drive. He burst through the right side of the line, cut back left and then outraced the Redskins' defense to the end zone.
Bradford (235 yards passing, one touchdown and one interception) also threw a short touchdown pass in the first quarter and the crowd, sensing a good day for the Rams, was into the game. The Redskins, however, rallied in the second quarter.
McNabb (236 yards passing, one touchdown and one interception) and Santana Moss (six receptions, 124 yards) teamed up for a 21-yard touchdown, Gano made two field goals and Phillip Daniels provided inspiration as the half closed when he burst through the Rams' line to block Brown's 21-yard field goal attempt.
The Redskins ran off the field energized and optimistic about the second half. "I thought we got a lot [of momentum] out of it," Daniels said. "We just didn't get anything out of it, so it really didn't matter."
Backup running back Kenneth Darby scored the only touchdown of the second half on a 12-yard run to help the Rams reclaim the lead the Redskins took on the previous possession. From there, the Redskins failed to put together anything on offense and the defense was not much help.
Last in the NFL in defense entering the game, Washington again gave up more yards than it produced. The Rams had 365 net yards and the Redskins had 349, with 49 coming on the final drive when the game was all but over. In three games, Washington has been outscored after halftime, 46-13.
"It's very frustrating," cornerback DeAngelo Hall said. "You spot any team 14 points, you're going to have to play out of a hole and it's difficult. We just couldn't make the plays, but we just got to be patient and do the things we're supposed to do."