Over the last decade or so, strange things tend to happen when the Redskins play the Rams.
In 2008, guard Pete Kendall caught a Jason Campbell pass that had been batted in the air. He fumbled and future Redskins safety O. J. Atogwe scooped up the ball and went 75 yards for a touchdown. That gave the Rams, in their first game under interim coach Jim Haslett, a lead they never relinquished in a 19-17 win.
In 2012 the Redskins went to St. Louis for the second game of the Robert Griffin III era. Griffin wasn’t as spectacular as he had been in New Orleans for his NFL debut but he had the Redskins in position to send the game into overtime with a late field goal. But receiver Josh Morgan was flagged for throwing the ball at cornerback Courtland Finnegan and Billy Cudiff’s 62-yard attempt never had a chance.
Last December the meeting between the two teams was not really all that strange. The Rams were playing well and the Redskins were in the midst of a six-game losing streak. Colt McCoy is not very good at avoiding sacks and it was a bad matchup as he got sacked six times by the Rams’ very active defense. They eventually knocked McCoy out of the game and Griffin came in and took one more sack. The Rams won 24-0.
The game at FedEx Field this Sunday looks to many like an easy Rams win. The guys in Vegas have the road team favored by about a field goal, which means they see the visitors as the clearly superior team. And they could well be. But we really don’t know yet.
The Rams were a 6-10 team last year; they lost their last three games. They couldn’t build off of the momentum from posting back to back shutouts against the Raiders and Redskins. They finished the year in a middle of the pack defensively in terms of yards and points scored and near the bottom on offense. They had their moments, including home wins over the Seahawks and Broncos, but they couldn’t generate anything consistently.
Under Jeff Fisher, who has been the coach since 2012, they have four two-game winning streaks, none longer. They have five losing streaks of three games or longer. Their record has gotten worse each year Fisher has been there, going from 7-8-1 in 2012 to 7-9 to 6-10 last year. If you are what your record says you are the Rams are not getting better under Fisher.
Are the Rams talented enough and consistent enough to come off of a big win at home on an artificial surface that maximizes their speed on both sides of the ball and win a road game on grass? Will they get two return touchdowns like they got and needed to beat the Seahawks, especially considering the Redskins are unlikely to punt the ball anywhere Tavon Austin?
From their point of view, for the Redskins to have a chance to win they will have to take advantage of whatever opportunities the Rams may present them. Let’s compare what the Redskins did on Sunday to what the Broncos did in their win over the Chiefs on Thursday night.
Peyton Manning passed for about 50 more yards than Kirk Cousins did against the Dolphins, but he needed 14 more pass attempts to get there. Denver could not run the ball, rushing for just 61 yards on 22 carries, less than half of the 125 yards that Alfred Morris posted alone.
So why did the Broncos win and the Redskins lose? For one thing, Manning was able to get his team in for the tying score in the late going while Cousins could not. That’s just Manning being who he is and Cousins being who he is.
But the Broncos defense took advantage of opportunities. When Aqib Talib and Chris Harris had their hands on Alex Smith passes, they held on. The Redskins dropped at least two potential interceptions of Ryan Tannehill, one of which would been six points or at least a first and goal. When the ball was on the ground late in the game in Kansas City, Denver got the scoop and score. When the second-half kickoff was fumbled by Miami and was there for the taking, Dashon Goldson couldn’t come up with it. If the Redskins had taken advantage of their opportunities like the Broncos maximized some of theirs, the outcome last Sunday may have been different.
So we have the Rams, who have yet to show that they can play consistent, winning football week after week, against the Redskins, who can’t put together a winning streak either and didn’t take advantage of some golden opportunities last week. I’m not so sure that Rams will come to town ready to play lights out again, perhaps suffering a bit of a hangover after their big win over the defending NFC champs.
The problem for the Redskins here is that the Rams can be off their game to an extent and still win if the home team doesn’t make some breaks. And before I can predict that the Redskins will create opportunities and take advantage of them I need to see them do it on a somewhat consistent basis.
Rams 20, Redskins 10
Prediction record this season: 1-0
The Redskins have the talent to win the game. But do they have the heart and brains?
This style? https://www.evernote.com/shard/s32/nl/896911159/4d06dce3-639d-4742-985f-904fb0944d19/