The Good, The Bad, The Rams
Going into Sunday’s game against the Rams, I have to admit I was a little apprehensive. Since 2008 the Redskins have been, in my opinion a team who played to the level of their competition, and failed to win the games they should have.
2009 was a perfect example of this as the Redskins opened the season with one of the easiest schedules that I can remember and ended up finding ways to blow nearly all of them.
The Rams have been one of those teams who have really plagued the Skins over the last few years. Consistently causing headaches for Skins fans as they try to understand how the Redskins lose to bad teams.
The 2008 Rams were horrible, abysmal, dysfunctional, inept, and pretty much any other negative word you could use to explain a football team. They were so bad that after three weeks of football Scott Linehan was let go and replaced by…wait for it… Jim Haslett (ring any bells?). In a game that the 4-1 Redskins should have dominated, they found a way to waste Clinton Portis’ 129 yard 2 TD performance. The Rams basically Field Goaled the Skins to death (sound familiar?) and scored only one touchdown in the much talked about Pete Kendell to OJ Atogwe debacle.
The 2009 meeting was by all accounts worse for the Skins even though the team won. The Redskins were struggling offensively early in the season wasting pretty much every red-zone opportunity they had but won the game 9-7 and scoring no touchdowns. The fans booed for much of the game and in all honesty this game was the beginning end of the Zorn era (if it hadn’t started before). After the final whistle the Redskins limped into the locker room as the fans in FedEx did not cheer, they booed. It was a game in which it became painfully obvious that 2009 was going to be a long season full of disappointing play.
2010 brought new promise of hope with Mike Shanahan taking over for Jim Zorn and his bingo calling sidekick. The Donovan McNabb led Redskins traveled to St Louis to face a Rookie QB with ZERO wide receiver help and a poor defense to back him up, riding a 14 game losing streak. Easy win right?
In what was an embarrassing display of football, the Rams jumped on the Skins early leading 14-0. Even though Steven Jackson left the game in the 2nd quarter the Redskins never were able to get back in the game and fell to the Rams 16-30.
After such gut wrenching games versus St. Louis teams that were let’s be honest… just terrible, it is easy to understand why Sunday was so important. Good teams find a way to win games they are supposed to lose and bad teams find a way to lose games they are supposed to win, it’s the reality of football. When you have a team that is playing to level of their competition and doesn’t take care of the games they should you are always going to be in for a long season.
With an opportunity to go into the bye 3-1 and be at least tied for 1st in the NFC East, and more importantly to finally get the losing to inferior teams monkey off their back, the week four matchup was pretty important.
Like most games there was good and bad, but this game definitely had some ugly in the 4th quarter. Let’s break it down.
As a Redskins fan you HAVE to love the depth at running back this season. Most (including myself) were starting to wonder if Torain was ever going to see the field this season. Going into Camp as the number one back Torain broke his hand and was quickly buried on the depth chart after strong preseason and early season performances by Tim Hightower and Roy Helu Jr.
Torain made his presence felt immediately breaking off a huge 20 yard TD on his 3rd carry of the season (not the game folks THE SEASON). The guy was explosive all day long racking up 135 yards on the ground, looking as angry as he was impressive every time he touched the ball. Torain put up over 7 yards per carry on 19 carries and broke a season long run for the Skins of 39 yards. Mike Shanahan has said that Torain is capable of being “the guy” since he took over in Ashburn. After Sundays performance you have to believe his workload should increase as the season goes on.
The Offensive Line:
You cannot put up number on the ground like the Skins did on Sunday without the big guys up front doing the heavy lifting. Outside of Torain’s 135 on the ground Hightower and Helu combined for 46 yards on the ground giving the Redskins a stout 181 yards on the ground.
More importantly they returned to preseason form and kept Rex clean, giving up a grand total of 0 sacks Sunday. For a QB like Grossman who has been known to turn the ball over from time to time (sarcasm), keeping the pressure off him helps control Bad Rex.
Not to sound like certain NFL Network personalities who live in the Baltimore area and constantly state the obvious after the fact but… I have been saying since August that this defense is special, and that they would be the key to winning games. Sunday showed why Shanahan wanted to switch to the 3-4.
The defense was absolutely dominant, allowing only 172 total yards for the St. Louis Offense marking the lowest offensive numbers the defense has allowed since 2007. The pressure that the front seven is putting on QB’s right now is, for lack of a better word… AWESOME!
I talked to Adam Carriker on Brian Mitchells BmitchLive last night and Carriker noted how disruptive the pressure was on Sunday. “I saw Sam and he was bleeding…” Carriker said “…and the look in his eyes was just pure frustration”. But Adam didn’t stop there he referenced that the next step on the defenses evolution started to show Sunday as well, pressuring the QB without having to blitz. When you can only send 3-4 and still get pressure then the QB is really in trouble because everyone is covered and the pressure is still bearing down.
You have to be excited about what Haslett is doing on the defensive side of the ball…Zero Blitz and all.
Fourth Quarter Interceptions:
Let’s just get this one out of the way early ok. Rex was not very good on Sunday. He threw for a pedestrian 143 yards 1 TD and 2 interceptions (both in the 4th quarter). I can already hear people calling for Beck and really it’s just too early. During his press conference yesterday Mike Shanahan said that Rex would be judged on wins and losses, honestly I agree with him. Sure he has had two less than amazing games in a Row and sure we know Rex has the tendency to turn the ball over but you CAN NOT pull a QB who is winning games.
Poor QB stats only really matter when the game is lost, and I don’t know about you but I prefer deep runs in the playoffs to having a QB in the Pro Bowl. Rex has got to find a way to figure out what opposing linebackers are doing in coverage, because it looks like he can’t read what they are doing. Rex has thrown 6 interceptions 2 of which came from WR’s dropping the ball and tipping it to defenders (not really Rex’s fault) and 2 have come from Rex throwing to LB’s that he claimed to not see. Don’t get me wrong though James Laurinaitis made an amazing play recovering from biting on the play action and then getting back in time to make the pick, but Rex has got to get better in order to continue to have success.
For two weeks now Banks has been a complete non factor in the game. On Kickoffs Sunday he constantly failed to get the ball to the 20. With the new kick rules causing the ball to go so deep into the end zone the worst that should happen on a kick return is starting on the 20.
Banks really has not had the blocking he was getting earlier in the year the last few weeks, so I understand this is really on the whole unit in regards to a lack of explosive returns. But honestly if Banks keeps taking risks trying to force things to happen disaster is going to strike inside the 20. I love you B, but you have to be able to read what you have to limit risky gambles.
Defenseless Receiver Penalties:
This one is on the officials. Really NFL Officials, a returner with the ball in his hands is defenseless …REALLY? Last time I checked there is no “Halo” in the NFL. If you are fielding a punt that hangs in the air while a gunner is bearing down on you and you don’t want to get absolutely smashed…call fair catch…pretty simple.
The worst part is that Sav Rocca has really become a weapon for the Skins and these penalties pretty much neutralize what he is able to do. If returners are now allowed to not fair catch and still not get hit what are the defenders supposed to do? It’s a joke and is another example of the league safety committee going too far.
Are horrible. There is not much nice you can say really. Sadly the score made the game seem closer than it was but this was a Rams team that got embarrassed on Sunday. 7 sacks, countless dropped passes, 43 yards rushing from Steven Jackson. It’s bad. At some point you have to wonder how much of the Rams woes are caused by the lack of OTA’s and Mini Camps and how much is just Josh McDaniels. I honestly feel bad for a guy like Sam Bradford because the kid can flat play, he beat Redskins defenders all day on Sunday and every time he put together a solid drive, receivers dropped balls and the offensive line committed stupid penalties to kill them.
On Sunday the Rams showed me some of the worst football I have ever seen in my life. Sorry Rams fans but this is going to be a long year…