Well, it must be December in Washington Redskins country again.
Team out of contention? Check.
Half-empty stadium? Check.
Pre-kickoff reports signaling ongoing controversy and organizational dysfunction? Check.
And, of course, more on-field embarrassments.
Washington’s losing streak was extended to five games, and the defeat gave the team its fifth season of 10 or more losses in the past six years.
“It’s just been tough, man. Tough season. We’ve been fighting uphill for forever now,” said wide receiver Santana Moss, the longest-tenured member of the team who has been part of only three winning seasons in 10 years. “Rams came in here on a high horse and they left out of here on a high horse.”
While the game marked Washington’s first shutout defeat since Oct. 30, 2011, it was the first time since 1945 that the Rams (who last week beat Oakland, 52-0) have blanked opponents in back-to-back games.
“I don’t have any answers for this one,” usually talkative fullback Darrel Young said after the loss. “I don’t know what to say. I’m not going to lie. I have no excuse. I’m out of them.”
Missing their top offensive threat in wide receiver DeSean Jackson and with linebacker and leading tackler Keenan Robinson and starting safety Brandon Meriweather also sidelined by injury, the Redskins proved inept on both sides of the ball. It’s debatable whether those three would have made a significant difference on a team that appeared to have packed it in by the start of the third quarter.
Jackson’s speed could have helped, but quarterback Colt McCoy may not have had time to go downfield. McCoy’s line offered little resistance; he was sacked six times and completed just 3 of 11 passes on third down. The quarterback also threw two interceptions — both in Rams territory.
St. Louis also forced Washington to go away from workhorse back Alfred Morris. Stacking the box with eight or nine defenders, they held Morris — who entered the game needing 107 yards to reach 1,000 for the third straight year — to just six on eight carries.
While Meriweather’s replacement, Phillip Thomas, had his struggles, there were plenty of other holes in Washington’s defense, and the Rams steamrolled the deflated unit in the second half.
Jackson, Robinson and Meriweather wouldn’t have been on the punt coverage unit that gave up a 78-yard return for a touchdown, anyway.
“It’s frustrating. This is our livelihood. This is our job,” linebacker Perry Riley Jr. said. “Everybody in this locker room makes it serious. We bust our [butts] all offseason, all season not to lose games. We’re not going out there and trying to lose. We’re giving it our all and trying to do the right thing. For whatever reason, it’s not happening.”
Plagued by slow starts in each of his two previous starts, McCoy appeared headed toward a better game-opening performance as Washington took the kickoff and moved downfield on nine plays. But McCoy’s pass intended for rookie Ryan Grant, who had slipped on the play, was intercepted at the St. Louis 17-yard line, killing the promising drive.
The Rams initially did their best to help the Redskins stay in the game. Place kicker Greg Zuerlein missed a point-after attempt, a 28-yard field goal and a 38-yard field goal in the first half, keeping the score at 6-0 at halftime.
But the Redskins couldn’t capitalize. Washington’s offense only made it across midfield one other time — that also ended in an interception, as safety T.J. McDonald picked off a McCoy pass intended for Jordan Reed at the 2-yard line.
For the game, McCoy completed 20 of 32 passes — most of them short because of the line’s inability to slow the Rams’ pass rushers — for 199 yards.
Roughly midway through the third quarter, the Redskins fans who remained in the stadium began chanting, “RGIII! RGIII!” just three weeks after they had cheered, “We want Colt!” while frustrated by Robert Griffin III’s struggles.
But Jay Gruden turned a deaf ear.
The coach did get desperate enough to call for a fake punt from his 33-yard line while trailing 9-0 with 6 minutes 15 seconds left in the third quarter. But the Rams tackled punter Tress Way after a two-yard pickup and four plays later scored on a one-yard touchdown pass from Shaun Hill to tight end Jared Cook.
The Rams then converted a two-point conversion as holder Johnny Hekker connected with tight end Cory Harkey, putting his team up 17-0.
Then, after another three-and-out by Washington, Way boomed the ball 55 yards, but Tavon Austin ran it back 78 yards untouched.
Griffin finally made an appearance but only out of necessity. With two minutes left in the game, McCoy strained his neck as he was sacked for a sixth time and left the game. Griffin took over, but his performance (3 for 4 for 33 yards and a sack) had no bearing on the outcome.
As he stood at the podium afterward, Gruden uttered a familiar refrain, admitting he remains at a loss regarding his team’s ongoing struggles and apparent regression.
“I feel like we are — obviously — we are going down instead of raising our level of play,” the first-year coach said. “That’s not good.
“We have to figure out a way to stop the downfall and figure out a way to raise, somehow, these last three games — try to get something positive going into next year.”
Summary: Rams 24, Redskins 0
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