Like all too many games in recent Redskins’ history, fans were left watching the clock during the last two minutes of the game and wondering if the team would somehow overcome its rough patches to walk off the field with a win. After losing to the Eagles last week and staring down two prime time games against powerhouse teams before their week 5 bye, the Redskins needed to win today. But could they do it?
The much-improved 2017 defense kicked off the game by holding the Rams to a punt, and the credit deserves to be spread around, something which holds true when you look at the defensive effort for the entire game. Mason Foster, Zach Brown, Matt Ioannidis, Kendall Fuller, and D.J. Swearinger teamed up to limit the Rams to just six plays and 21 yards before the Redskins’ offense would take over. Washington’s opening offensive drive was a picture of balance, even though it was not a picture of perfection. Running back Rob Kelley took the ball six times, including every first down play, and quarterback Kirk Cousins threw the ball six times; together, the unit overcame a fumble by Jordan Reed and a loss of 11 yards on a sack to put three points on the board. Following the field goal, the Redskins had momentum in their favor. The Rams were forced to punt again, and Washington followed that up with a Chris Thompson touchdown to kick off the second quarter. Shortly after that, Josh Norman made his presence known by punching out the ball and forcing a fumble, which Washington recovered, and the offense converted the turnover into three more points. Then, the tide started to turn.
Rams quarterback Jared Goff opened the next drive with a 69 yard pass play to Gerald Everett, and Washington could do little to slow the Rams, who capped off the effort with a Todd Gurley touchdown. The two sides would go back and forth for the remainder of the half. Although the Redskins had several strong plays, including a Ryan Kerrigan sack-fumble and a 61 yard run up the middle by Thompson, and went into halftime with the lead, they were the team that had to pay a bigger price. Running back Rob Kelley left the field after being crunched at the bottom of a pile, and he would not return due to a rib injury. Josh Norman (shoulder) and Zach Brown were also shaken up during the Rams subsequent touchdown drive.
The running game with which the team found success during the first half seemed to evaporate into thin air in the second half. The Redskins’ first three drives of the second half all ended with nothing to show for their work. They took little time off the clock (2:51, 5:09, and 2:50), and two of their first three second half drives ended with punts. The third ended with a missed 51 yard field goal by kicker Dustin Hopkins, whose 50+ yard field goal success last season was at 53%. The Rams stayed in the game, too, by putting 10 points on the board during two of their first three second half drives. But, ultimately, Cousins would have a chance to put his team over the top when he retook the field with just over 7 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
Much to the joy of fans everywhere, Captain Kirk came through. The team got back to the run, giving rookie Samaje Perine a chance to get into a rhythm, and wide receiver Terrelle Pryor made up for an otherwise quiet game, including another dropped pass, with a 23 yard reception that put the team even closer to striking distance. Cousins capped the drive with an 11 yard pass to Ryan Grant, Grant’s first and only catch of the game, and the Rams would get the ball back with less than two minutes on the clock.
But then came Mason Foster. The defensive rock, who dislocated his shoulder earlier in the game, stepped in and intercepted Goff’s pass, intended for Cooper Kupp, and that essentially ended the game. The burgundy and gold will return to Washington with a 1-1 record before taking on the Oakland Raiders next Sunday night.
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By the numbers: Cousins (18/27, 179 yds, 1 TD, 0 INT, 2 fumbles, 2 sacks), Kelley (12 car, 78 yards), Thompson (3 car, 77 yds, 3 receptions, 29 yds), Perine (21 car, 67 yds), Jordan Reed (6 rec, 48 yds, 1 fumble), Jamison Crowder (4 rec, 47 yds), Brown (10 tackles), Norman (6 tackles), Preston Smith (3 tackles, 1 sack), Kerrigan (1 tackle, 1 sack), Hopkins (2/3 FG, 3/3 XP)