The 2-1 Washington Redskins traveled to St. Louis to take on the 0-3 Rams. The Redskins were coming off of their first loss of the season on Monday Night Football vs. the Dallas Cowboys.
Washington tried to establish the run early, but it wasn't working ideally with Tim Hightower, so Mike Shanahan turned to Roy Helu hoping he could provide the spark. Rex Grossman eventually connected on a beautiful pass to the corner to Santana Moss with a defender right in his face, and Moss came up big for the touchdown.
The defense was smothering, and punishing Sam Bradford all game.
Mike Shanahan eventually handed the keys to the run game over to Ryan Torain, and every opportunity he got to hug the football into his gut, he did what the run game in Mike Shanahan's system needed to do... read the defensive tackle, cut decisively and ran physically. On Torain's first four or five carries, he ran over St. Louis Safety Stewart and punished him. Torain broke the first hit in the backfield time and time again, and found himself sprinting to the first down marker almost every single time.
It was astonishing to me to see how much more effective the offensive line looked blocking for Torain compared to Hightower, but I attribute it to Torain's ability to read the blocks and make the decisive cut with a quicker first step. And while Torain isn't a speed back, I think he's noticeably faster than even Helu has looked (at times) so far this season, and he runs far more violently than Hightower. While I think it's notable that Torain probably should have been starting all season long so far, it's also worth pointing out that he may have only JUST this week gotten back into the shape Mike needed him to be in, and he did get tired with just a little more than a half of play, even though he ran for more than 100 yards in what equated to a half.
Torain added his own touchdown on an amazing extended stretch with one of those decisive cuts and he hustled his way 20 yards into the endzone and finished his run.
The Redskins started the second half with 6 consecutive runs, and while they didn't run the ball into the endzone on that drive, they were still able to put in a field goal. The rest of the second half resulted in some bad throws by Rex Grossman at inopportune moments, punishing defense, a TD allowed (the first in over 120 minutes of football since the last TD they allowed) and horrible play-calling on offense.
Santana Moss - Moss comes to play every week. He had a key drop on a 3rd down play, but he also caught a huge conversion and found himself moving the chains a couple of times. His route running from the slot was outstanding, and his route on the touchdown pass was as crisp as you can ask for.
Ryan Torain - His style of running stood out. There are very few backs who run that physical in the NFL, and the other ones who run like that are some of the most successful. Torain hasn't showed us enough yet in his stint with Washington or the NFL that he's an every-game back, but if he's running like this and able to stay healthy, there's no doubt in my mind that he's headed to Hawai'i, or even carrying the Redskins beyond the Pro Bowl, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.
Offensive Line - They bought a lot of time for Rex and did a tremendous job blocking for the run. They didn't allow a sack, and some of the pressures that they allowed were more a result of Rex dropping back 25 steps instead of 3/5/7, or Rex not stepping up INTO the pocket as the tackles sealed off the edges.
Trent Williams - Yes, he's part of the O-Line, but he made a huge hustle play on the second INT to make the tackle when it seemed like every other Redskin player on the field at the time was jogging. I don't know if you all have noticed this, but it appears like he's the guy who is going to make the tackle when the opposing defense comes up with a turnover and tries to return it.
Defense - I don't think I'd knock anyone on the defense this week. I mean, the Rams aren't good, but you get these games, and the defense did a tremendous job getting pressure on Bradford and finishing plays, displaying excellent motors.
Jim Haslett - I'm a fan of the guy, and last week if 3rd and 21 goes in our favor, everyone calls this man a genius. Players play aggressive in his aggressive scheme, he dialed up a spectacular gameplan and stayed a few steps ahead of the Rams.
St. Louis Rams' O-Line and Receivers - The line was atrocious and allowed Bradford to be blown up constantly. The receivers dropped pass after pass. I'm a firm believer that if it hits your hands, you have no reason not to come down with it... and the Rams' receivers dropped everything Bradford threw their way.
Rex Grossman - He made a good throw on the TD, but he really didn't do much else good. He threw some very inaccurate throws, and forced a lot of throws he never should have risked. He also shows horrible mobility and doesn't get upfield. His tendency to throw deep even when he's got some guys open underneath is worrying, and he never looks out to the back vs. the blitz or zone.
Tim Hightower - Mike Shanahan said after the game that he could see Hightower was down this week for whatever reason... Tim wasn't running well at all early. In comes Torain who busts off a couple big runs, and Hightower's next opportunity to run, he looks energized and on. If his problem has been the lack of challenge, maybe the Cardinals were on to something getting rid of him. He's definitely got the talent and potential to do what he said he wanted to do... I've got to question his mentality after seeing today's performance though (unless he IS injured right now).
Kyle Shanahan - Can his playcalling get any worse? He starts off the game with 3 consecutive passes. The run is hot, but he abandons it as soon as the Rams put 3 on the board. He runs deep pass plays constantly, very rarely throwing short-to-medium routes which leaves us in 2nd or 3rd and long. As Brian Mitchell said on the post-game show... Kyle Shanahan needs a 4-minute offense to RUN the clock out... key word being run. The reason this team doesn't put games away is the position that Kyle's play calling puts us in when the plays aren't being executed.
Referees - I can allow the Niles Paul penalty... I can't allow the Perry Riley penalty. They didn't call kick-catch-interference, which fair catch doesn't have to be called to occur... but they called unnecessary roughness hitting a defenseless receiver. Newsflash, referees... it's on the returner to NOT be defenseless and call a fair catch. As soon as the ball touches him, he's fair game to be blown up, which is what Riley did. The reason Fair Catch was instituted was to make tacklers hold back and provide safety to the returner... it's not the referee's job to call fair catch for him without him or anyone else knowing it was called. And just so you all know I'm being fair, the refs missed a helmet-to-helmet call on Barry Cofield who hit Sam Bradford, and they screwed up the Rams downing a punt at the 1 yard line.