Heading into St. Louis last Sunday, the Washington Redskins were considered favorites against a Rams team that didn't seem to have enough offensive fire-power to overcome a solid defensive front-seven and a decent pass-rush.
The Rams would eventually go on to defeat the Redskins 31-28, proving to be the more resilient team and taking what the defense gave them. Taking all of what the Redskins defense gave them.
With a little more than six minutes to go in the first half, the Redskins led the Rams 14-6. Robert Griffin III settles under center on first down at the Washington 32-yard line and goes to work. Increasing the lead before halftime would serve as a huge boost in momentum.
In this play, Griffin performs double play-action that begins with a fake to running back Alfred Morris, and is immediately followed by a fake end-around to wide receiver Josh Morgan.
During his pre-snap read, Griffin recognizes the cushion coverage from rookie cornerback Janoris Jenkins on Leonard Hankerson, who is split wide left. Although there isn't a lot of pressure on Griffin in his dropback, Morris does a good job of getting off the play-fake and picking up the linebacker coming off the right end.
After the Rams safety bites extremely hard on Griffin's selling play-fake, the rookie quarterback sees that he has a streaking Hankerson at full-speed going against a rookie corner that got a late jump on his cover.
From there, it's easy. Griffin has time to set his feet and deliver one of those picture-perfect deep balls that we saw so often at Baylor, while Hankerson simply makes a bread basket catch to haul in his first NFL touchdown.
As a result of five blocked field goals last season and an unearned job for free agent kicker Billy Cundiff during the summer, there were a lot of eyes on the Redskins special teams. In addition, the team's punt blocking looked suspect in Week 1 against the Saints and the Redskins gave up a costly block in just their first week of the season.
To say that two blocked punts in as many weeks is a nightmare would be an understatement. However, that's exactly what happened to special teams coach Danny Smith and his punt team last Sunday.
Following the blocked punt from Week 1, head coach Mike Shanahan acknowledged it as a missed assignment by linebacker Chris Wilson. And after such an embarrassing call-out, you'd think missed assignments were a thing of the past.
Apparently not. At least not for Perry Riley.
It's clear from this shot that the Rams aren't bringing a heavy rush on the kick. In fact, they're not going for the block at all. There's six guys with their hands in the dirt, no disguised rushes, and eight Redskins blockers.
The Redskins have no excuse, here. Perry Riley was simply eaten alive.
Ask any Redskins fan what the most frustrating part of Sunday's game was and they'll tell you all about Washington's soft, delicate sort-of-zone-looking defense. Even after the Redskins were torched and sliced by Sam Bradford and Danny Amendola, defensive coordinator Jim Haslett didn't seem to give a damn. Corners didn't pressure, creative blitzes weren't called, and the Redskins defense didn't have much of an answer for the Rams.
In this play, Haslett's soft defense on the receivers actually works to benefit the Rams' rushing attack. Because of how deep the safeties are playing off the ball and how much of a cushion the top corner is giving his receiver, running back Steven Jackson simply has the task of running to space. The middle of the field is wide open.
What sends this play and Jackson into orbit is the terrible angle by veteran linebacker London Fletcher. As Bradford takes his stance under center, Fletcher creeps from his ILB spot to the line and blitzes from the right side.
It appears, however, that Fletcher refused to fall for what he predicted was a play-fake and he took the best angle to sack Bradford. Suddenly, Fletcher is out of position, the right tackle and tight end seal the edge, and the flood gates open for Jackson to break a 20-yard run.
There was nothing good about this defense all afternoon.
When it comes to the offense, Redskins fans don't have much to complain about. Were there some drops and bonehead mistakes along the way? Sure. But the offense was the Redskins' strong suit last Sunday.
Instead, the loss should be shouldered by the defense and special teams. Not necessarily the players on defense, but Jim Haslett and his overall gameplan. For nearly the entire game, the defense looked unprepared and out of position. And on special teams, players need to start backing up all this talk about how great of a coach Danny Smith is before it's too late.
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