Halftime was the turning point of last week’s 16-14 Rams loss in Oakland. The Raiders made all the right adjustments and completely shut down the Rams’ offense. This week’s game against the Washington Redskins should not have been any different. But it was.
The Rams played the entire second half against the Redskins without two of their captains, running back Steven Jackson and safety O.J. Atogwe.
Jackson’s legs were wishboned as he was tackled late in the first half, resulting in a groin injury of unknown severity. He’s scheduled for an MRI Monday that will determine if he’s suffered a tear. Atogwe had been hampered by a stiff quad muscle all week, and the team decided to shut him down at the half after it never loosened up.
Despite these big losses, the Rams pulled off a gutsy victory on Sunday against Donovan McNabb and the Redskins. The team got off to a picture-perfect start at the Edward Jones Dome, scoring their first opening-drive touchdown of the season on a 42-yard misdirection sprint by Jackson.
The following defensive possession, linebackers Larry Grant and Na’il Diggs combined to force a Santana Moss fumble that kindly bounced right into the hands of safety James Butler, who returned the ball inside the Washington 5-yard line.
Two plays later, rookie quarterback Sam Bradford faked a handoff to Jackson, rolled to his right, and found tight end Daniel Fells wide open in the corner of the end zone to extend the lead to 14-0.
The Rams early good fortunes did not end there. The defense held the Redskins to a three-and-out on the very next possession, leading to a big play from a rookie. On fourth down, wide receiver Dominique Curry flew through the line untouched and blocked Graham Gano’s punt. The Rams got the ball at the Washington 26, but the momentum shifted on the next drive.
On the first play, Bradford made what he admitted after the game was a bad read and bad throw. He lofted a pass to Fells who at the time hadn’t broken out of his route. Fells had no idea the ball was coming and the pass was easily picked-off by Redskins safety Kareem Moore.
The Redskins scored the next 13 points and trailed by only one point at the half. It was gut check time for the St. Louis Rams. Could they overcome the adversity and pull off the win? Yes. And the entire team chipped in to make it happen.
After surrendering the lead on a field goal to open the second half, the Rams steadily pecked their way down the field by using quick slant routs and play-action fakes. Kenneth Darby capped off the 74-yard drive by dancing into the end zone on a 12-yard run. The Rams retook the lead and never looked back.
The defense held the Redskins when it counted the most: on third down and in the red zone. On the night, the ‘Skins converted on just one of 10 third down attempts. And they were limited to only field goals in their three visits to the red zone.
The Rams defense recorded just one sack on the mobile McNabb, but the front four provided just enough pressure to make things difficult for him. Late in the game, as the Redskins tried to mount a comeback, Bradley Fletcher picked off McNabb to officially seal the deal.
No matter how you look at it, this was a huge all-around victory for the St. Louis Rams. Getting that first victory will do wonders for that locker room.
This was the first taste of success at the Edward Jones Dome for many of the players involved in the action today. Let’s hope there’s more where that came from.