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Looks Like Someone Has a Sixpack of the Mondays

The Redskins get their first win of the season on the west coast against their former offensive coordinator Sean McVay.

Washington Redskins vs Los Angeles Rams Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images
  1. After so many years of watching the Redskins take on the Rams inside the Edward Jones Dome (or The Dome at America’s Center now that it has no official naming rights), it was refreshing to draw the new Los Angeles venue. That St. Louis dome always had such a depressing, sterile feel that oozed through the television screen, and the seemingly annual battle with the Rams has always worked to serve as a reminder that the lots of the Redskins and Rams have been very closely tied over the years (in other words, both teams have finished at or near the bottom of their respective divisions, pitting the two NFC teams against each other on the regular). As soon as I saw Sean McVay on the sideline for the Rams, with the sun shining brightly onto the Santa Ana Bermuda grass, and the stands filled with a noticeable contingent of burgundy and gold, there was no part of me hung up on that past of ours any longer. Everything about the game screamed “new era,” even if I was somewhat unwilling to get excited about that idea—the best of any kind of new era in football is ushered in by what happens on the field, not the pageantry surrounding two former co-workers coaching against each other. (Seriously, I get Sean McVay is a handsome guy, but I didn’t need the announcers to belabor that point...which demographics were they playing to when they brought that up repeatedly?)
  2. If you believe you are a better team than your opponent, your gameplan is likely going to look a lot like the Redskins gameplan did on Sunday. Despite all the pre-game nonsense about the game being dictated by Jay Gruden and Sean McVay’s familiarity with each other’s passing prowess, the Redskins dedicated themselves to the run early. Despite the game hinging on Washington’s last scoring drive in the fourth quarter, a closer read of the game stats tells a different story, with the Redskins out-rushing the Rams 229 to 92...this kind of disparity in the run game usually translates into victory. Three Washington runners topped 65 yards on the ground, and for the first time this season, Kirk Cousins didn’t lead the team in rushing yards. The resulting time of possession battle clearly favored the Skins, with a 36:19-23:41 line. Twenty-one more plays than the Rams allowed the Skins to control the ball, and despite surrendering about 100 more yards in the air to L.A. than they got, Washington owned the box score. Penalties and turnovers also went our way, combining for what at least statistically looked like a complete victory. The last thing I want to do is nitpick, so perhaps we can just all agree that the Redskins left a few points on the field. The game probably didn’t need to feel as close as it did at the end, but the Rams didn’t roll over, and as cross-country road tests go, it is hard to call Sunday anything but a giant success.
  3. As a Redskins fan, there was one point of the game where I had a “Wow, that call traditionally does NOT go our way!” It was just your standard double foul during a down in which there was a change of possession. Assuming for a second that not everyone knew what the heck was going on (the referees struggled to appropriately assign each penalty to the correct team), the ball had been returned by St. Louis beyond the 20-yard line (it had been caught on the 2-yard line, which turned out to be an important fact). Because both the Redskins and Rams had each committed a foul (Rams called for holding and Redskins called for hands to the face) after the return man had fielded the kick, the offsetting flags meant the Rams were going to begin their drive on their own 2-yard line, which sent my head reeling. When the referee told the viewing audience this, I thought, “What?!? That can’t possibly be true. They will surely correct themselves and give the Rams the ball at midfield or something like that.” Dean Blandino confirmed the interpretation and the enforcement and the Rams embarked on a three play/eight yard drive that ended with a punt. The Redskins scored a touchdown on the very next drive. I hate suggesting the Redskins picked up some momentum from a proper call, but to me, it was true. How many times have we seen the ref stand in the middle of the field, face the cameras, turn on his mic and deliver news to Redskins fans that hits squarely below the waist? A million times, that is how many times. It’s a small thing, but I know I couldn’t be alone thinking that we got away with something, even armed with the knowledge that we had not gotten away with anything.
  4. Here’s another thought from the perspective of someone who has been going to games at FedEx Field since it opened roughly twenty years ago: there sure were a lot of Redskins fans in their house! Both the Chargers and the Rams played host to thousands of fans of the opposing teams yesterday. When Chris Thompson took his 61-yard run to the house, he ran right into a corner of the end zone DOMINATED by burgundy and gold. I have seen that played out the wrong way in Landover a few times over the years, and it blows. As much as my heart goes out to...whomever is buying Rams season tickets in Los Angeles, it was great to see and hear the Redskins fan presence there. Everyone keeps talking about some big “concern” that the NFL has about filling stadiums in Los Angeles. I don’t get it at all. On one hand, screw the NFL and its owners—their money-printers are operating on all cylinders. They put two teams in Los Angeles despite everyone knowing exactly how it would play out from an in-stadium experience. The greed associated with wanting to have a major presence inside that enormous media market will pay off for the league in a major way, irregardless of who shows up on Sundays (my autocorrect doesn’t even bother anymore when I type “irregardless”). On the other hand, the NFL has created an entire year’s worth of possible California road trips for its fans. Whether you or I intend to make that trip anytime soon, L.A. is a destination that will inspire countless fans of opponents to travel to and take in a game. Living in a “destination” city is a way better excuse for being overrun by opposing team’s fans than anything Washington has thrown out there over the years, with “rampant ticket availability” and direct sales to ticket brokers (despite the mythical “wait list”) primarily contributing to our woes.
  5. Even though neither Jay Gruden nor Sean McVay suited up, they were central figures to the tilt. One thing I have been saying about McVay—without knowing too much about Jared Goff’s true potential—is that he is smart enough to figure out how to get Todd Gurley the ball and get his career back in full swing. It was the central theme to multiple fantasy drafts I participated in, as Gurley is on all of my four money team rosters. Gurley sat in favor of Martavis Bryant in the flex spot, with Jay Ajayi getting his first start of the year in my big money league. This is because I hate playing the best players from the Redskins opponent in any given week, except where there is real money involved—and yesterday, his benching didn’t cost me. I came away very impressed with the way McVay committed to Gurley (obvious, I know, but coaches talk themselves out of feeding their best players every week in the NFL). When he hurdled Bashaud Breeland with a move right off of the screen of a Madden game, and extended for the touchdown, it was drilled into my head what the combo of McVay and Gurley is truly capable of doing in this league. In fact, it’s why I can’t bring myself to call this a win over a “bad” team. Defensively, a lot of talking heads were excited about this Los Angeles team. With a guy like Aaron Donald on the front line, a talented and athletic group of linebackers and solid secondary play, the Rams defense is considered to be a halfway decent unit. Goff, despite his rough first year, is a heralded top pick with talent and upside. Tavon Austin, Sammy Watkins, Cooper Kupp and Todd Gurley provide weaponry for Goff, and with McVay pulling the strings, it is easy to see how they could put together a pretty good year. Everything about “Redskins vs. Rams” over the most recent years suggests a battle of mediocrity, but I would urge people to pump the brakes on that. The Rams get the 49ers this week on Thursday Night Football. If and when we all watch McVay tear San Francisco a new one—as he should do—perhaps we will begin to see this Washington victory in a better light. As much as I hate to give people the ammo, here you go: I think this game was conducted between two teams that are far better than people are giving them credit for being. Though it was close, the Redskins were clearly the better team, and I think that will look better and better as the weeks wear on—don’t look now, but McVay gets a crack at the Dallas Cowboys in two weeks (after the mini-bye).
  6. Some cleanup notes from the first two weeks of football:
  • Seeing Derek Carrier in a Rams jersey playing against my team hurt a lot.
  • We should probably be talking more about Matt Ioannidis. He started the game yesterday and from what limited amount of time I paid attention, he seemed to play well. Anyone else thinking this?
  • After starting instead of Josh Doctson against Philly, Ryan Grant came through for Jay Gruden in a major way by hauling in the game-winning score. We have spent a lot of time over the last few seasons discussing Grant and how he fits into the picture in Washington. We know that Jay Gruden loves him (especially after hearing Scot “McLovin” McCloughan refer to him as Ryan Gruden). Is it time to look at this guy as a bona fide receiver that we should be regularly getting excited about? I have struggled to move past my view of him as a depth guy, but seeing is believing.
  • The Samaje Perine era has begun in earnest it would seem, though it gives me no pleasure to usher out the Rob Kelley era. To be honest, I feel like if and when Kelley is healthy, he will be put right back into the mix in a meaningful way. He averaged 6.5 yards per carry en route to stacking up 78 yards in the first half of the Rams game. While Perine looks to have a little more wiggle, Kelley got some serious work in before his rib injury. I feel like Chris Thompson will continue to be the headliner, which will help me win my bet against Kevin Ricca (who celebrated his own personal Jackie Robinson Day this weekend—congratulations). It looks like #25 is going to have his durability put to the TEST.
  • Against the Philadelphia Eagles, Kirk Cousins’ poor play was a large contributing factor to our loss. Against the Los Angeles Rams, Kirk’s solid play was an important factor in our win. I’ll just drop that off there...