Washington Redskins: 8 Things We Learned from Loss vs. St. Louis
After shocking everyone with a season-opening victory over the New Orleans Saints, the Washington Redskins found themselves on the losing end of a knockdown, drag 'em out fight with the St. Louis Rams.
A game fraught with mistakes and miscues led to an unceremonious end to an ugly Week 2 finish.
The Redskins ended the day on an especially sour note, as Josh Morgan's unsportsmanlike conduct penalty turned a makeable field-goal attempt into a 62-yard prayer that went wide right. Washington has the week leading up to their home opener to learn from their mistakes.
Here is what we learned from the Redskins' 31-28 loss at the hands of the St. Louis Rams.
Washington's Defense Has Not Taken the Next Step
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After an early fumble return for a touchdown, the Redskins defense looked poised to take it to the Rams offense. Over the next quarter, the Rams' offense found a rhythm and a number of soft spots in the Redskins coverage that allowed them to hang around for most of the game before taking the lead in the fourth quarter.
Washington's pass rush was pitiful, and the lack of pressure allowed Sam Bradford to take his time dissecting the coverage for good gains and opening up the ground game for big gains.
Brian Orakpo went out with an apparent shoulder injury and was ultimately replaced by Rob Jackson. If the pass rush can't impose its will on an offensive line as injury riddled and inconsistent as the Rams, what luck will they have against the better offensive lines in the NFL?
They forced three turnovers, but allowed 151 rushing yards at 6.1 yards per carry, while yielding 15 passing first downs and a combined 63 points through two weeks. Those are not elite defensive numbers.
The Offense Missed Pierre Garcon
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Pierre Garcon sat out the game against the Rams after suffering a foot injury against the Saints last week. His 88-yard catch-and-run showed he was worth the money the Redskins gave him this offseason and that the offense could strike from anywhere on the field.
Without Garcon, the Redskins' receivers struggled to create separation or get open looks against the Rams.
Leonard Hankerson did have a huge 68-yard touchdown reception, but he nearly dropped it. Aldrick Robinson let a big completion hit him in his hands and fall incomplete, and Santana Moss was invisible for his second straight game.
Without their No. 1 target, the Redskins offense lacks a credible threat at receiver. Josh Morgan stepped up with five catches for 50 yards, but ultimately cost the 'Skins a shot at tying the game with a sloppy penalty in the final two minutes of the game.
The Offensive Game Plan Was Terrible
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Mike and Kyle Shanahan put together a picture-perfect offensive game plan for their season opener against the Saints. They started with short passes to get Robert Griffin III comfortable and force the defense to play up before moving to intermediate passes, mixing in the ground game and taking some shots down the field.
This week, the Redskins looked to be out of answers for the Rams defense that allowed the fifth-most yards in the league last week.
The Rams played angry this week, and the Redskins weren't prepared for the pressure St. Louis put on Griffin and the offense. Kyle Shanahan gave up on the run in the fourth quarter despite Alfred Morris breaking off a couple of long runs in the second half that could have set up some shots down the field.
The game was not out of hand, but he called his offense as though it was, allowing the Rams to sit back in coverage and keep receivers in front of them.
Fred Davis Isn't Earning the Coaches' Confidence
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Fred Davis was supposed to be an elite tight end with the ability to catch 70 passes for upward of 900 yards and six or seven touchdowns. He started last season with 11 catches for 191 yards and a touchdown.
So far this season, Davis has just four catches for 52 yards, while disappearing for long stretches of games.
Maybe Davis and RGIII aren't on the same page, or Davis is just off to a slow start. Maybe he doesn't have anyone to push him to excel, which explains the mental error he made on a broken play where he ended up taking a direct snap out while stopping behind the center as he went in motion.
For a player in a contract year and coming off of a four-game suspension, Davis is not helping himself earn anything but time on the bench.
Redskins' Offensive Line Destined to Struggle
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Tyler Polumbus was thrust into the starting right tackle spot after hip surgery knocked Jammal Brown out for a few weeks. It is expected that he will struggle to block some of the better edge rushers in the NFL, though he should improve over time.
To see Trent Williams, the would-be franchise left tackle, get outplayed by Robert Quinn is a travesty.
The interior offensive line played well, though it did get pushed back a few times, but the tackles were inconsistent against St. Louis. If the Redskins can't stop the Rams defense from collapsing the pocket, how can they expect to do anything against the likes of Jason Pierre-Paul, Jason Babin or DeMarcus Ware in their division?
Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris found some running lanes, but the play-calling shied away from the run as the game wore on.
Robert Griffin III Is Human After All, but Still Ahead of the Curve
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No one expected Robert Griffin III to go into the New Orleans and throw for 320 yards and a touchdown and was just as willing to write off his performance as a one-time deal. Against the Rams, Griffin didn't have the eye-popping passing day, but made plays with his feet when he needed to.
Mike Shanahan looked more comfortable letting Griffin run this week, and it led to Griffin notching two rushing touchdowns against St. Louis.
Griffin threw his first interception, took a lot of hits in the pocket and got called for intentional grounding in the first half. However, the bumps are to be expected from a rookie, and the story could have been entirely different if Aldrick Robinson had hauled in the deep ball that hit him in his hands in the second half.
Solid game from Griffin, but the offensive strategy didn't pan out this week. The Redskins got away from moving the pocket and that allowed the Rams defense to sit in Griffin's throwing lanes for much of the game.
Special Teams Are a Growing Concern
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Sav Rocca entered this season having had just one of his 365 career punts blocked. He had one blocked last week in New Orleans and another this week in St. Louis. Throw in Brandon Banks splitting time between putting the ball on the ground and running sideline to sideline, and you've got a recipe for disaster.
Danny Smith has been with the Redskins since 2004, but his job may be on the line if he doesn't fix the problems on display through two weeks.
Last season, kicker Graham Gano had five field goals and an extra point blocked due to missed blocks. They've improved in that department, but now the blocking on punts is falling apart. Failures on special teams can be crippling to a team finding success in so many other phases of the game as the Redskins are.
Replacement Officials Are Poor Substitutes
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It is easy to forgive the replacement officials for missing the odd call here and there, but the performance of the officials in this game was abysmal. They were inconsistent in calling penalties, missing obvious infractions while throwing flags for phantom infractions.
The worst part about their performance was their failure to stop the Redskins and Rams from fighting and getting in one another's faces after the whistle.
Washington's final push for a chance at a game-tying field goal came down to an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after Josh Morgan, in retaliation for having his head shoved, threw the ball at Cortland Finnegan.
Though his actions are inexcusable, there were numerous instances where the officials should have tried to curtail the ongoing scuffles by penalizing players.
Officials should never dictate the outcome of a game or change the course of a game with their failures, which is exactly what happened in this game.