ST. LOUIS — Rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III played well in his second NFL game, running for two touchdowns and throwing for another. But the Washington Redskins had breakdowns on defense and special teams, and wide receiver Josh Morgan lost his cool when it mattered most.
The result was a 31-28 loss to the St. Louis Rams on Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome that kept the Redskins from starting the season with consecutive road triumphs.
“We lost the game,” said Griffin, who threw his first NFL interception and suffered his first professional defeat. “I didn’t make enough plays to help the team win. That’s the bottom line.”
The Redskins’ defense allowed Rams quarterback Sam Bradford to throw for 310 yards and three touchdowns. It permitted St. Louis wide receiver Danny Amendola to amass 15 catches for 160 yards. The Rams rallied from a 21-6 deficit in the second quarter to take a 31-28 lead on Bradford’s one-yard touchdown pass to tight end Matthew Mulligan on the opening play of the fourth quarter.
That touchdown was set up by a blocked punt by Mulligan. It was the second punt that the Redskins have had blocked in two games this season, that after having a league-high five field goal attempts blocked last season.
Even so, the Redskins (1-1) had a chance. They recovered a fumble by Rams rookie tailback Daryl Richardson with just less than three minutes remaining, and Griffin’s seven-yard completion to Morgan would have put them in a fourth-and-one situation at the St. Louis 29-yard line. Coach Mike Shanahan could have left Griffin and his offense on the field for a fourth-down gamble, or could have sent in place kicker Billy Cundiff for a 47-yard field goal try to attempt to tie the score.
Instead, Morgan retaliated to a shot to his jaw after the play by Rams cornerback Cortland Finnegan, he said, by getting up and throwing the ball in Finnegan’s direction. Morgan was called for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Shanahan was left sending in Cundiff for a 62-yard field goal attempt that fell well shy with just more than a minute to play, and the Rams (1-1) ran out the clock.
“He’d been doing stuff all game,” Morgan said. “They all were. [You] all saw the game. But I should’ve just kept my calm and kept it moving.”
Morgan had spoken during the week about the need to not allow Finnegan to get to him. But he failed to heed his own warning. “You can’t lose your poise,” Shanahan said.
It was a game in which emotions ran high on both sides and the replacement officials had difficulty at times keeping things under control. Rams tailback Steven Jackson was given an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the first half for spiking the ball after the officials ruled that he’d failed to reach the goal line on a carry from the Redskins 1-yard line.
“I do think it did get out of hand,” Griffin said. “But it’s not my job to enforce that.”
Shanahan said he’d never seen a game like it. The Redskins also were fuming about a hit on tight end Fred Davis late in the game that they felt was an illegal shot to his head, which went uncalled. Shanahan said he was told by the officials that none of them had seen it.
“I think everybody saw the game,” Shanahan said. “The game was a little bit out of control. You don’t like to see that.”
Redskins veteran wide receiver Santana Moss said the confrontations between players after plays without drawing penalties “ended up being more a part of the game than the game itself.”
Asked whether the officials lost control of the game, Moss said: “I’m not going to be the one to say it. But if you were watching the game, you could tell. . . . There should have been something done earlier in the game to let both sides know this wasn’t going to happen throughout the game.”
The Redskins were playing without wide receiver Pierre Garcon, who was on the inactive list because of a foot injury suffered a week earlier during the season-opening victory at New Orleans. The team’s injury list grew when two defensive starters, linebacker Brian Orakpo and defensive end Adam Carriker, were hurt in the first half. Orakpo returned to the game but left again. Cornerback Josh Wilson left the field early in the fourth quarter.
Still, plenty went right for the Redskins early on. They scored a defensive touchdown on the first snap of the game, on a fumble recovery and return by Wilson. Griffin ran for a touchdown and threw a long touchdown pass to wide receiver Leonard Hankerson to build a 21-6 cushion in the second quarter. The Rams and the crowd were occupied with venting their anger at the work of the fill-in officials.
But the Rams climbed back to 21-16 at halftime. Bradford threw a touchdown pass to Amendola, who tied an NFL record with 12 first-half catches, and the Rams got a field goal just before the intermission after Griffin threw an interception.
Bradford threw touchdown passes to wide receiver Brandon Gibson in the third quarter and to Mulligan to open the fourth quarter.
Griffin completed 20 of 29 passes for 206 yards. He also ran for 82 yards, and rookie tailback Alfred Morris added 89 rushing yards. But they couldn’t quite hold things together.
“I don’t take losing very well,” Griffin said. “No one should.”
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