What looked to be an easy win for the Redskins turned into a struggle in the fourth quarter, from which they finally escaped with a 17-10 victory.
With a 17-0 lead entering the quarter, the only way the Redskins could have put themselves in danger was by turning the ball over or failing to extend drives. And on a third-and-11 play from the Rams’ 26, that’s exactly what they did. Rex Grossman’s pass bounced off Santana Moss’s hands, and Rams cornerback Justin King picked it off and returned it 50 yards into Washington territory.
From there, the Rams still couldn’t force the ball into the end zone – even though they had first and goal from the 3. Reed Doughty, playing for a dehydrated LaRon Landry, tackled Steven Jackson for a 1-yard loss on first down, and then Rams left tackle Rodger Saffold was called for holding Brian Orakpo on second down. Rams quarterback Sam Bradford threw consecutive incompletions, and St. Louis had to settle for Josh Brown’s 32-yard field goal that made it 17-3.
The Redskins went three-and-out, immediately giving the Rams a chance to stay in the game. They kept alive the drive early with an eight-yard completion from Bradford to Austin Pettis on third and 4, then did so again with the exact same combination on the exact same down and distance, giving St. Louis a first down at the Redskins’ 20. When Redskins linebacker Rob Jackson was called for unnecessary roughness on Bradford, the Rams had it first and goal from their 10. After a false start, the biggest third-down conversion came on third and goal from the 15, when Bradford floated a ball for Jackson on the left side, and he barely extended the ball over the goal line to make it 17-10 with 5:45 remaining.
On the Redskins next play, Grossman badly underthrew Moss, and Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis came up with an easy interception. His long return gave St. Louis a first down at the Redskins’ 19 – and that’s where the defense came up big. After the Rams were called for an illegal shift, Stephen Bowen sacked Bradford for a 10-yard loss, and on third down, Orakpo came up with another sack to push the Rams out of field-goal position.
But the Redskins still couldn’t put the game away, because on third down deep in his own territory, Grossman badly overthrew Moss for an incompletion. A 63-yard punt from Sav Rocca pushed the Rams back to their own 28. After the Rams picked up one first down and moved the ball to their own 42, Adam Carriker came up with a sack of Bradford, then pressured him on the next play. Bradford’s pass on fourth and 13 fell incomplete, and the Redskins took over at the St. Louis 38 with 2:16 remaining – needing only to kill the clock.
They were able to do that because Ryan Torain got them their only first down of the final quarter with runs of 1, 6 and 4 yards. St. Louis was left with no timeouts, and Grossman won the game by taking a knee. The Redskins head to the bye week at 3-1.
Third Quarter: Redskins lead Rams 17-0
In the third quarter, the Washington defense held the Rams to zero first downs and minus-four yards of total offense. The Redskins entered the final quarter with a 17-0 lead.
Washington’s offense showed plenty of life but had only three points to show for it in the third quarter. Running back Ryan Torain, who saw no action in the team’s first three games, hit the 100-yard mark midway through the third quarter. Entering the final quarter, Torain already had 118 yards on 12 carries. It’s the fourth 100-yard game of his career. Redskins’ starter Tim Hightower was still seeing some action, particularly on third-down plays.
The Redskins opened the half with an eight-play, 62-yard drive that was capped by Graham Gano’s 38-yard field, which gave Washington the 17-0 lead. The Redskins used all three running backs on the drive. They started the half with Torain in the backfield and both Roy Helu and Hightower served as third-down backs at some point.
On his second play of the season, running back Ryan Torain found a huge seam and ran 20 yards for the Redskins’ second touchdown of the day. Washington carried a 14-0 lead into halftime over a struggling Rams team.
Torain had been handcuffed to the sidelines through three games this season, as coaches have preferred Tim Hightower and Roy Helu in the backfield. But Hightower had only 13 yards on six carries through 1 1/2 quarters Sunday, prompting coaches to insert Torain into the game. His first run was a strong seven-yard gain and he followed it up with the touchdown run. (HIghtower did return to the backfield for Washington’s final offensive possession of the half.)
The Redskins’ defense, meanwhile, has had few problems with the Rams. Sunday marks the first time the Redskins have shut out a team through the first half since the 2010 season-opener against Dallas. The Rams managed just 103 yards of offense and only six first downs against Washington in the first two quarters.
The Redskins fared better with the ball. Grossman finished the half 8 of 16 for 88 yards and a touchdown. Hightower, Torain and Helu combined for 69 yards on 13 carries
First Quarter: Redskins lead 7-0
After a stalled drive on their first possession of the game, the Washington Redskins settled into a rhythm and took a 7-0 lead after one quarter.
Using an 11-play drive that featured seven run plays and four pass plays, the Redskins marched 69 yards and scored on a six-yard touchdown toss from Rex Grossman to Santana Moss.
The 11-play drive tied Washington’s longest of the season in terms of number of plays run. It took 5 minutes, 34 seconds. Highlights during that drive were two third-down passes from Grossman to Jabar Gaffney. On the first, with his team facing third-and-8, the line gave Grossman plenty of time and he hit Gaffney 20 yards downfield for the first down. Later, with his team facing third-and-7, Grossman connected with his old college teammate again, this time for a 17-yard gain.
Running back Tim Hightower followed that with a six-yard gain, and Roy Helu then reeled off consecutive runs of nine, four and two yards to put the ball on the six and set up Grossman’s third-and-4 touchdown pass to Moss.
That drive looked much better than the firs, when Washington lacked balance and blew a big opportunity.
The Redskins opened the game against the worst-ranked run defense in the league with four straight pass plays, and the result was a stalled 19-yard drive. The first play resulted in a 13-yard completion to Santana Moss, then on a broken play, Grossman pulled the ball down and scrambled for two yards.
But two plays (an incompletion and a short pass) later, Washington faced fourth-and-8 from the Rams’ 39-yard line. Grossman completed a pass down the middle of the field to a wide open Moss, but the play was called back because right tackle Jammal Brown jumped, forcing his team back five yards, and on came punter Sav Rocca.