The Rams clicked on all cylinders offensively, and the defense stood up against Robert Griffin III when it mattered most.
A few terrible calls by the officials marred an otherwise outstanding game, and a boneheaded play by Josh Morgan killed any chance at his team tying the game in the final minute.
This was a big win by the Rams, winning their first home opener since 2006. Here is a quarter-by-quarter analysis of all pieces of the Rams roster.
Overall Game Grade: A-
Bradford took advantage of the short field offered by the special teams block of a Washington punt and rewarded Matthew Mulligan's block with a touchdown reception for the blocking tight end to give the Rams a lead early in the fourth quarter. Bradford didn't get much else done after that, but he didn't need to.
Bradford is continuing to carve the Redskins defense, leading the offense to another touchdown, this time moving 63 yards on just four plays. Bradford finished the scoring drive with a pretty tear drop pass that fell perfectly into the hands of Brandon Gibson for a 34-yard touchdown. If Bradford has looked better in his career, I haven't seen it. Bradford's interception in the endzone was unfortunate, as he never saw London Fletcher in coverage.
Bradford continued with his sharp play into the second quarter, once again leading the Rams down the field on a 14-play drive that ended with a field goal. It was deja vu again, as Bradford again led the offense down the field, eventually scoring on a one yard pass to Amendola. Bradford was 9 for 12 for 120 yards in the quarter, and clearly looked his best in a long time.
Bradford to Amendola. Bradford to Amendola. That was the mantra of the opening quarter. Bradford was 8 for 11 for 61 yards in the opening quarter, with seven completions and 60 yards going to Amendola. Bradford was quick and decisive in the pocket and didn't let any of the Redskins pressure get to him.
Overall Game Grade: B+
The Rams offense was impressive at the start of the quarter, responding to a blocked punt by the special teams to score a touchdown and two-point conversion to give the Rams a three point lead. This was all without Steven Jackson, who continued to stand on the sidelines after his unsportsmanlike penalty in the first half. Richardson was handed the reigns as the team's primary ballcarrier in the second half, and had his fair share of impressive plays. That eventually caught up with the Rams when Richardson fumbled the ball with less than four minutes to go.
In response to a three-and-out by the Redskins at the start of the quarter, the Rams offense put together a blitz of an opening drive, moving 63 yards in four plays. Steve Smith had a beautiful 25-yard catch and run to put the offense in Redskins territory. Brandon Gibson finished the drive with a 34-yard touchdown pass to put the Rams ahead. The Steven Jackson-less offense did not miss a beat, as the Rams continued to pile up yards on the team's second drive of the quarter. Bradford continued to hit Amendola, and Darryl Richardson blew through the Redskins defense on a 53-yard rush down the sidelines.
The Rams offense needs to take advantage of all redzone opportunities. That means touchdowns instead of field goals. Steven Jackson was robbed of a touchdown on the team's first drive of the second quarter. But the offensive line should have gotten enough of a push to give Jackson enough room to earn one yard without stretching his arm over the endzone line. After the Redskins scored to take a 21-6 lead, the Rams offense marched right down the field again. This time the Rams finished the drive with a touchdown. Amendola caught 12 balls in the first half (career high) for 133 yards. Steven Jackson ran for 58 yards on nine carries in the half, including a long of 20 yards. Darryl Richardson looked very good on a few runs up the middle.
The game couldn't have started worse for the Rams. The Rams first play ends with a Danny Amendola fumble, recovery by the Redskins and a return for touchdown. Rams down by seven less than ten seconds into the game. Amendola redeemed himself with five more catches on the ensuing drive, totaling 52 yards and leading to a field goal. This Rams team, however, cannot afford to give up turnovers, especially not turnovers that lead to immediate points for the opponent. The efficiency of the offense was impressive when they weren't handing the ball to the Redskins.
Overall Game Grade: B-
After watching the Rams offense take the lead early in the fourth quarter, the Rams defense put up a wall against the Redskins offense, sending Griffin and company off the field on a three-and-out. Things did not go as smoothly on the Redskins second offensive opportunity. Griffin started taking over the field, running left and right, spinning away from trouble and bailing out his teammates. The Rams held serve, getting a lucky slip on a Griffin scramble to stop the Redskins on a crucial third down midway through the quarter. Janoris Jenkins leveled Fred Davis on an incomplete pass and Rocky McIntosh dropped an easy interception that could have sealed a victory against his former team. The defense kept Griffin under control, forcing a punt with four minutes left in the game. Josh Morgan's impression of Steven Jackson cost the Redskins 15 yards and forced them into attempting a 62-yard field goal that was wide right.
The Rams defense came out strong in the second half, shutting the Redskins down on a quick three-and-out. The second drive by the Redskins did not go so well. Once again, the Redskins were able to string together several big plays to march down the field, eventually leading to another Griffin run for a score. At some point in the fourth quarter, this Rams defense is going to be called on to make a stop. I'm not sure they will be able to answer the call.
Janoris Jenkins is his own best friend and worst enemy. Last week it was the great interception of Stafford at the goalline. This week, he was flat out burned by Leonard Hankerson on a 68-yard seam route that didn't end until Hankerson reached the endzone. Cortland Finnegan continued to make his mark on the Rams secondary, this time intercepting a Redskins pass in the final minute, leading to a Rams field goal. Chris Long has been impressive the entire game for the defensive front and James Laurinaitis has led the team with a very quiet four tackles.
The Rams defense didn't have to face RGIII and the Washington offense until halfway through the quarter. The well-rested D held the Redskins in check, including a fantastic sack by Robert Quinn on a bull rush of the left tackle. Things changed on Washington's second drive, as the Rams defense gave up too many big plays. And when the Redskins made it into the Rams redzone, it was too much to expect to keep RGIII away from paydirt, as evidenced by his five-yard run for a score.
Overall Game Grade: A
Hekker hit a nice 44-yard punt against the sideline that pinned the Redskins inside the 11-yard line, and followed it up with a 66-yard bomb later in the quarter. That advantage in field position eventually overtook RGIII and was crucial in the Rams victory.
The Rams special teams responded to a Rams interception in the endzone by blocking a Redskins punt on the ensuing possession. Matthew Mulligan broke through the line and gave the offense the ball back deep in enemy territory.
Zuerlein hit another couple field goals, this time from 33 and 42 yards. The first FG should never have occurred, as Jackson did score on the play before, but it's good to see that the kicking game, led by a couple rookies, is the least of the Rams worries. The Rams coverage unit kept the Redskins in check. Solid work all around.
Zuerlein nailed his one field goal attempt, from 39-yards. Too easy for GeeZee. Amendola also had a very impressive punt return, running away from the Redskins coverage unit on his way to a 22-yard return. Hekker did his job with a 53-yard punt that came oh-so close to staying in the field of play, but landed about a yard inside the endzone for a touchback.
Overall Game Grade: B+
The decision to bench Jackson in the second half looked good when Darryl Richardson was running down the sidelines. But that playing with fire eventually caught up with the team when Richardson coughed up the ball in the final minutes of the game. Fortunately Josh Morgan gave away the game with his unsportsmanlike penalty to end the game. The Rams responded well to Fisher's leadership and didn't collapse in the face of adversity.
It's obvious that Fisher has the heart, mind and soul of this team. The team listens. The team responds. The team believes. The decision to bench Steven Jackson in the quarter was head-scratching. This team can't afford to be without its best player, although Darryl Richardson may have something to say about that.
The game plan offensively was evident for the Rams. Quick passes, catch and runs, selective rushes. Despite the defense giving up big play after big play, the Rams offense stuck to the game plan and it worked as good as can be hoped. The plan on defense was pretty tame and allowed Griffin to pick apart the Rams D. The defense redeemed itself at the end of the half, shutting down the Redskins two-minute offense to keep the game within one score.
Under previous Rams coaching regimes, a start to the game like the one today would have been a death knell. Not anymore. Not under Jeff Fisher. These Rams aren't going to quit. That showed in how the team responded, both on offense and defense.