(Sigh) Our punter injures himself during pregame warm-ups. Is that a bad omen, or what?
Everyone circled the St. Louis Rams as the beatable team of the early schedule. I did. So did you, brother. And why not, for a team whose rookie quarterback suffered six sacks and five interceptions on the way to a 68.1 Quarterback Rating? The Rams generated 136 fewer yards of offense than the Washington Redskins. They did that against weaker teams than the Redskins faced.
In the euphoria of beating Dallas and the good fight against Houston, it was easy to overlook that the Skins were one holding call away from an 0-2 record going into Sunday's game.
Credit where it's due. The Rams did not resemble the team of the first two weeks. Sam Bradford was impressive in a game plan that suited him. The St. Louis offensive line was not the sieve we expected. Were the Rams supposed to control the ball that much when Steven Jackson was hurt?
Kudos to the Rams. They deserved the win. Two of their four wins since 2008 have been at Washington's expense. Ironically, Jim Haslett was coaching in each of those wins, as the Rams' interim head coach then and as the Redskins defensive coordinator now.
If you buy the cliché that more games are lost than won, you have plenty of evidence in Washington's 30-16 loss.
Kicker Graham Gano may have been disconcerted by news that he would fill in for injured punter Josh Bidwell. Gano's opening kick-off went out of bounds. The resulting penalty gave the Rams possession on their 40-yard line. Eight plays later, Steven Jackson gashed the Skins defense with a 42-yard touchdown run.
On Washington's first possession, an illegal blocking call on Santana Moss negated a first down, six-yard gain by Clinton Portis. The 15-yard penalty set the Skins to first and long with ground to make up. Donovan McNabb successfully completed a 10-yard pass to Moss who unsuccessfully tried for more yards. His fumble was recovered by the Rams Na'il Diggs who rumbled to Washington's three-yard line before McNabb bumped him down.
Bradford's touchdown toss to TE Daniel Fell sealed the Redskins fate, though it was only the first quarter. Those two early touchdowns were the margin of victory for the Rams.
What did we learn?
Maybe Donovan McNabb alone isn't good enough to lift this team. That says more about the offense than McNabb who was the most effective Redskin on the field (19/32, 236 YDs, 1 TD, 1 INT).
Mike Shanahan said last week that quarterbacks are paid to convert third downs. The Redskins' one successful third down conversion came as the result of a penalty. The Skins attempted one attempt on the ground, a third quarter, third and two attempt by Clinton Portis to the left. He was thrown for a loss.
Four of McNabb's eight third-down attempts went to TE Chris Cooley. Three were completions but short of first down. Two attempts were to Moss. One was complete but also short of first down. Attempts to Roydell Williams (third and 11) and to Keiland Williams (third and 10) fell incomplete.
The Skins did gain 12 first downs, eight by the pass, and rolled up 349 yards on offense. The defense allowed the Rams 24 first downs, including seven of sixteen third-down conversions.
McNabb targeted Joey Galloway and Roydell Williams five times. Williams had one catch for 10 yards. Galloway can beat coverage on a deep route and McNabb looks for him, but he has twice missed on touchdown catches.
The Redskins found a running game. Portis and Ryan Torain averaged over six yards per carry. The Skins virtually abandoned the ground game in the second half. They had little choice. But, tell me again, why were Larry Johnson and Willie Parker were in training camp last summer?
Mike Sellers is a big part of the Redskins offense. I hesitate to compare him to Brian Westbrook, but it is clear now why the Redskins were so anxious to sign Westbrook. Running backs are receiving targets as much as tight ends. By now, Westbrook might wish he were here rather than in San Francisco. I know I do.
Santana Moss is so essential to the Redskins offense that it is a killer when he messes up.
Most of this loss can be laid on Jim Hasletts' defense for their inability to stop big plays or pressure Sam Bradford. Though the defense was last in the league going into this game, they were more disruptive in the first two games. They should have matched up well against the St. Louis. The Rams rolled up 365 yards, and worse, controlled the ball for nearly 35 minutes. Either the Rams saw something on film to exploit, or the Skins looked past them as Albert Haynesworth implied in his post-game comments.
The pessimism that will follow this game will surely balance out the optimism that rose for the first two games. Balance is needed here. The loss to the lowly Rams didn't expose any weaknesses that we didn't already know about. There is talent on the Redskins. It is just not championship talent, not good enough that a single quarterback or coach can fix what's needed in one season.
The Redskins, being Redskins, may upset one of their next four opponents, whose combined record going into Monday night is 8-2.
The Redskins, being Redskins, might find that the most dangerous team on the schedule is the 0-3 Detroit Lions.