The Washington Redskins blew the chance to put the St. Louis Rams away early in the fourth quarter Sunday when quarter quarterback Rex Grossman threw two costly interceptions. But a day later, Coach Mike Shanahan chose to dwell on two costly penalties rather than the interceptions.
Grossman’s first interception wasn’t really his fault. It came deep in Rams territory, bouncing off the hands of Santana Moss and into the arms of defensive back Justin King.
The second was the quarterback’s fault, however, and came deep in Washington’s territory. With the Redskins up 17-10 with 5:45 left, Grossman thought he had Moss wide open, but Rams’ linebacker James Laurinaitis stepped into the path of the ball, picked it off and returned it to Washington’s 19-yard line.
It marked the second straight week that Washington had elected to pass on first down rather than attempt to run out the clock, and the second in a row that Grossman admitted that he never saw the middle linebacker who intercepted his pass. (Grossman also threw another a pair of would-be interceptions in the fourth, but Rams’ defenders dropped them).
But on Monday, Shanahan wouldn’t blame Grossman’s lack of awareness or play calling for Washington’s scare.
When asked about both, Shanahan instead deflected that question and discussed the missed opportunity on Moss’ tipped pass. He then said: “I can’t go through all the different situations that occur during the game, but we have to get better at eliminating penalties in the fourth quarter, which we had. We had a number of penalties that kept us out of good situations, we had some dropped balls that [cost] us chances to really change the game. . . and of course the interception late. For us to be the type of football team we need to be and win down the stretch, we have to get better as a team. You’re hoping to do that in October, November and December. It’s nice to go into the bye 3-1, but we know to do something special this season, we’ve got to keep getting better.”
The Redskins defense committed penalties on two different Rams’ possessions, and St. Louis ended up scoring on both.
On the first, with Washington up 17-0 and 10:28 left, Rams’ QB Sam Bradford completed a 15-yard pass to Danario Alexander, who was tackled by DeAngelo Hall at the Washington 8-yard line. At the end of the play, Hall was called for unnecessary roughness, and the ball was moved to the 3-yard line.
The Rams came no closer and had to settle for a field goal for their first points of the game.
On the next Rams’ possession, Bradford & Co. faced first-and-10 from the Washington 20, and linebacker Rob Jackson was called for roughing the passer when he took Bradford to the ground while laying a hit on him as he threw an incompletion.
The penalty moved the ball to the 10-yard line, and after a Rams’ false start penalty, Bradford completed a 15-yard touchdown pass to Steven Jackson, cutting the score to 17-10.
“The bottom line is, we’ve got to eliminate mistakes, and we had some in the fourth quarter that cost us,” Shanahan said. Later he added: “I try to tell our guys don’t pay attention to what anybody says. We’ve got to do it each and every week, we’ve got to find a way to win and find a way to be the best at what you do. At the end of the season, we’ll decide what type of team we are--offense, defense special teams. But we have a ways to go. I love our effort, I like the direction of our football team, and hopefully we can keep on doing what we’re doing.”