Big Decisions & Big Plays: Rams vs Redskins

Dropped passes (six more) , costly penalties (nine of ‘em) and the inability to get 7 in the Red Zone…stop me if you have heard this before.  The Rams nearly came back but continue to be plagued by self-inflicted mistakes. WR Mike Sims-Walker had three drops and TE Lance Kendricks made sure he was included in the failure. St. Louis was penalized nine times for 65 yards, several of which halted potential scoring drives. QB Sam Bradford was also sacked seven times and spent 40 minutes in post game therapy.

But wait…there’s more. Usually reserved for road games the Rams were flagged for five false starts, four on offense and one on special teams. Nothing sums up the Rams inability to play quality football more than this set of tweets from @therebirth. With that I leave you to the decisions and plays that have the Rams at 0-4 heading into their bye week. (Rumor has it Vegas has the Rams at -8.5 on their bye)  

On 2nd & 10 after Steven Jackson rushed to the left for 3 yards to bring up a manageable 3rd & 7: a False Start on Rodger Saffold ended the Rams first drive of the game. The first of Donnie Jones’ many punts on the day.

On 3rd & 8 Rex Grossman passed to the right to Jabar Gaffney for 20 yards to the StL47. Tackled by Craig Dahl. 3 plays later on 3rd &7 Grossman found Gaffney again for 17 yards to the StL27. Tackled by Craig Dahl. Dahl again proving poor coverage skills leads to high tackle totals. Keeping the drive going and setting up Grossman to Santana Moss for 6 yards and a touchdown.

Redskins 7 – Rams 0

Finally moving the ball down the field Bradford added to his league leading downfield accuracy and hit Danario Alexander for 25 yards to across midfield. But after a sack of Bradford a drop by Sims-Walker cut shot the drive.

Perhaps trying to prove his toughness, Pettis put himself in peril.  Pettis fumbled the kick but it was recovered by Dominique Curry. With a penalty for unnecessary roughness on Washington for 15 yards the Rams would start a drive with great field position and only one score down.

Spagnuolo showing he has some stones going for it on 4th & 1 Bradford pass to the right to Austin Pettis for 4 yards and a 1st down.

Of course yet again the Rams were unable to get out of their own way. After a Bradford pass to Steven Jackson got them to the Washington 28. A personal foul on Jason Smith moved the Rams back 15 yards. Then on 3rd & 22 Bradford was sacked for a loss of 10 and fumbled, recovered by the Redskins.

Might as well have been a defensive touchdown.  All of 3 plays and one minute and twenty-five seconds later the Redskins found themselves in the end zone again. This time after a Ryan Torain 20 yard run.

Redskins 14 –  Rams 0

A holding penalty on the kickoff put the Rams in a tough spot to start their next drive. Mixing a few Bradford passes and a solid dose of Jackson the Rams moved the ball to midfield at the 2-minute warning. Needing 53 yards for a TD or another 20 for a FG they hit the self destruct button once again. Back-to-back false starts forced another Jones punt.

After another defensive stop by the Rams we got to see  Pettis once again put himself ahead of the team.  Rather than fair catch Pettis caught the kick in tight coverage. Only a Rams recovery and penalty on Washington saved Pettis from further criticism.

Bend but not break was the approach decided upon for the next drive.  A hefty dealing of Helu and Torain, helped by a 39 yard jaunt, took the Redskins down to the St. Louis 20. A Dahl tackle brought up 4th down and forced a Redskins 38 yard FG.

Redskins 17 – Rams 0

After Washington drove to the Rams 33 yard line and looked to move into at minimum, easy FG range. A delay of game penalty and Grossman fumble kept the game close forcing them back to the 46 yard line and another punt.

Driving to the St. Louis 23 the Redskins kept doing their part to keep the Rams in the game. On 3rd & 11 Grossman’s pass was intercepted by Justin King and returned for 51 yards to the Washington 31 yard line. Giving St. Louis a golden opportunity to make it a one score game.

That would be too easy.  Bradford hit Alexander for 15 yards to get a 1st & goal from the 3. (Side note. Danario has a knack for just missing the end zone doesn’t he.) The next play call was to Jackson for a loss of one. Adding to the fun was a holding penalty on Saffold moving the Rams back to the 14. Not too be outdone Lance Kendricks dropped a pass in the end zone on 3rd & 14. At least St. Louis was finally on the board with a Josh Brown 32 yard FG.

Redskins 17 –  Rams 3

A strong kickoff and coverage  pinned Washington back at their own 14 yard line.  Then another terrific stand by the Rams defense forced a quick 3 & out for Washington. Giving the Rams great field position. For a chance yet again to make it a one score game.

Two key 3rd down completions to Pettis, including a roughing the passer penalty put the Rams on the Redskins 10 yard line. For once the Rams were able to overcome themselves. After a false start and incompletion to Kendricks, Bradford found Jackson for 15 yards and a touchdown.

Redskins 17 – Rams 10

With momentum clearly on their side for the first time this season the Rams looked to capitalize. On Washington’s first play of the drive James Laurinaitis intercepted Grossman and gave the Rams the ball inside the Red Zone with a chance to tie.

What happened next is a microcosm of the first quarter of the Rams 2011 season. The Red Zone. Rams Kryptonite.

An incomplete pass on first down was followed by an illegal shift penalty, and then back-to-back sacks given up by Saffold. And poof, first-and-10 from the 19 became fourth-and-30 from the 39. In an epic failure the Rams couldn’t even get a field goal out of the Laurinaitis interception. Electing to punt and rather than take a chance effectively gave away a chance at the elusive first victory of 2011.

Though this is where the game truly ended, the Rams defense did get the offense the ball back with one last chance to tie the game and possibly steal a win away from Washington. But just as badly as Bradford missed Alexander and Pettis on the final drive, the Rams missed their shot at a win.