The game has been over for hours. My throat is raw, my hands are vibrating, and my ears still ring with the ghosts of my own screams and cheers, and those of the 60,000+ crazed fans at the Edward Jones Dome. My twitter feed is filled with electronic pinches to remind ourselves that this is real, this magic really happened.
This was not, not by a long shot, a game that the St Louis Rams should have been expected to win. Certainly the oddsmakers favored the Redskins, even on the road. And the game's early fortunes favored them as well, with a cascade of bad plays and terrible calls keeping the Rams out of the end zone, and helping RG3 and the Redskins build a 21-6 lead.
But there was much more fight in this team than anyone could have predicted. Much more certainly than we've seen in St Louis in a long, long time. Because this game was not won on individual plays, though there were some special ones. This game didn't end on a game-winning drive, though it could have for the other team. This game was a barfight, and it wasn't won until the Rams were finished out-fighting their opponents. All of them. The Redskins, the officials, and the specters of failure that have haunted this home stadium for far too long.
This game film is going to be a joy to re-watch, and we will be happy to delve deeper into analysis as the week goes on. But a few things stood out to me. Here are my quick thoughts:
Sam Bradford's cool in the pocket was outstanding. In our Rams-fan fishbowl, opinion on Bradford has been all over the map between those who believed in his talent and those down to their last straws of hope. Even outside NFL observers have been waiting for a while for Sam Bradford to look like the #1 pick he was. Today, he looked it.
Bradford was cool and collected in a very busy pocket, despite having far from a top-pedigreed offensive line in front of him, despite relying on the same set of receivers that have been trashed over the past few years. We just finished analyzing a brilliant Bradford-to-Brandon Gibson pass for a touchdown, and the two might have topped it today. Gibson ran a nice route, but Bradford stood poised while recognizing an oncoming rush, and also recognizing that Barry "Boo" Richardson had just enough leverage to push the rusher by. With that, Sam reset his feet and launched a beautiful ball to Gibson in the end zone.
The throw and catch brought the Rams all the way back from their early deficit, gave the Rams their first lead of the day, and drove the Dome crowd into a frenzy that would carry through the entire second half.
Robert Griffin III is a special player, but the Rams defense all but shut him down in the second half. Just as important as the Rams' offense growing wings, the defense did their part by holding Washington to a single second-half score. That said, it's almost unfiar for a player to be as good as fast as RG3 has become. His play-fakes are sick good. His accuracy is outstanding. And for a rookie, he makes surprisingly few bad plays.
Fortunately, Cortland Finnegan helped instigate one of those. The Rams' star CB faded into a no-mans land and baited Griffin into a throw that he easily picked off to snuff a second-quarter drive and set up the Rams for three free points before halftime.
Finnegan, Long, Quinn, Eugene Sims, Jo-Lonn Dunbar and the "other" JL on this team all deserve some share of the game ball for their performances tonight, and for their role in maintaining the level of fight in this team all game long.
The replacement refs need to be replaced. Immediately. Whether you're a Rams fan or a Redskins fan, whether you're Jeff Fisher or Mike Shanahan, or whether you just know good from bad when you see it, you know this game was an absolute travesty of officiating. Mike Pereira was interviewed on 101 Sports and called it "the most poorly-officiated game of the season so far."
That statement can certainly be chalenged by the Ravens and Eagles, or by the Packers and 49ers, but the fact is that this problem is not getting better, and it is not going away. The NFL is trying to use our love of the game to ignore that the game we love is being stained by horrific lack of control and lack of ability to make the right calls when they're badly needed.
The best thing you can say about today's litany of terrible calls is that, when you add them all up, the Rams and Redskins might have suffered from about an equal amount of them. The Rams lost more points to the refs, but the Redskins had the game decided against them by the refs. Neither is acceptable by any means. Both teams were fighting a third team on the field today, and by proxy, every team in the league is having to bear the brunt of this petty and stupid fight between Roger Goodell and the NFL Referees Association.
It is beyond time to put an end to this nonsense. It is beyond time for the NFL to stop waging a needless war of principle, sitting on a $10 billion dollar war chest while caviling about pensions with two hundred men whose professionalism is core to the game's integrity.