The Washington Redskins extended their stay at the summit of the NFC East with another unconvincing victory, this time over a St Louis Rams team that may have missed its best chance for a victory this side of mid-season. On the back of a running game that looked to be humming along nicely the Redskins looked on their way to a comfortable victory but could never put the final nail in the coffin. The Rams rode their way back in to the game on the back of Sam Bradford in spite of the Rams’ offensive linemen making little attempt to keep him upright and his receivers making little attempt to catch the passes he threw their way. At the end of the day the Redskins did just enough but unless they start to perform at a higher level, surely their stay at the top of the NFC East won’t be long?
Washington – Three Performances of Note
1) Bringing it off the edge
Washington appears to be blessed with a strong OLB pairing now, potentially the rival of their most hated rivals down in Dallas. Brian Orakpo added three more sacks this week and continues to build his C.V. as one of the most feared pass rushers in the league. Opposite him Ryan Kerrigan is really starting to emerge as a playmaker in his own right, registering another forced turnover this week and picking up four stops in the ground game to go with it. This was comfortably Kerrigan’s strongest game in run defense (+1.3) and he will hope to build upon that in the coming weeks. His pass rush has been consistent for the last three weeks registering a sack and four pressures in each of the last three games now and adding an extra hit this week. If he can build the consistency in run defense as well, the Redskins will be well away with this defense.
2) Back with a bang
With the Redskins’ backfield duo of Tim Hightower and Roy Helu doing so well to open the season there was part of you that must have wondered where Ryan Torain would fit in the backfield and where he would get his carries from. After this comeback display, which was as impressive as Arian Foster’s return for Houston, the next conundrum for Mike and Kyle Shanahan is how they get all three backs involved. Torain’s speed was decisive in this game, entering in the second quarter Torain was able to stretch the front side of the Rams’ defense with his speed, which in turn opened up gaps to the back side as the Redskins were able to stretch the Rams. The Washington offensive line is still not quite clicking yet in the run game but they are at least getting good lateral movement out of defenses and Torain showed that he, along with Hightower and Helu, is well capable of finding or making creases in the defense to take the ball up field.
3) Defensive line steps up
For the first time this season the Redskins’ starting defensive line, built entirely through free agency, started to give solid returns on the investment of Dan Snyder. Stephen Bowen registered two stops in the running game and two sacks as a pass rusher. Adam Carriker was stout at the point of attack and also got in on act (who didn’t though?) with a sack. Rounding out the trio Barry Cofield showed that he can bring an up field threat from NT, registering a hit, a pressure and also two batted passes as he joined in on harassing Bradford. This was easily the best showing from this trio but still there is room to improve in terms of their consistency in run defense. The disruption was there but, whilst not going to extremes, there was a hint of feast or famine. This is a solid start, but if this is indeed the start of these three building a solid foundation to the defense, the Redskins will look for more consistency from here on.
St Louis – Three Performances of Note
1) Blind sided
This game started out well for Rodger Saffold, working to the second level and making a strong block on Rocky McIntosh on the Rams’ second offensive snap. Unfortunately for him, the Rams and in particular Bradford, it was all downhill from there. Saffold turned in comfortably the worst pass protection performance of his pro career yielding four sacks and six pressures to a variety of Redskin defenders. Saffold struggled in particular with Orakpo, never getting to grips with the former Longhorn’s blend of speed and strength. Saffold surrendered two sacks and six pressures to Orakpo and that the bullrush was involved in five of those plays will be of grave concern. Orakpo’s surge and disruption of Bradford on Kerrigan’s sack and forced fumble at 7.14 in the second quarter set the tone early for Saffold’s day.
2) Bouncing back
After struggling, along with Justin King, with the deep speed of Torrey Smith last week Darian Stewart responded with his best game as a pro this week against the Redskins. Stewart was able to knock down one pass on a blitz but it was his solid play coming up on underneath routes, registering three defensive stops that will provide most encouragement for the Rams. Stewart was noticeably not playing deep coverage quite so much this week but this kind of performance was much needed to restore both his own confidence but also the players and fans around him.
3) Black and Blue
Bradford is getting less help than just about any quarterback in the league right now and this game typified the help he’s getting. At times it looked like his offensive line was trying to get him killed while his receivers didn’t look interested in catching the passes that he was able to get away. The Redskins defense was able to registered seven sacks, four hits and 17 pressures, along with an eighth sack that came courtesy of Bradford himself running out of bounds at the line of scrimmage. Bradford’s receivers dropped five passes, notching their season total up to 17 drops. In spite of all of this Bradford graded positively for the fourth straight week passing the football. Bradford is still getting the ball in to good places, if others around him start to make plays then there are wins there for the taking for this St Louis football team.
● In one game Rodger Saffold surrendered more sacks, four, than he surrendered all of last season, three.
● This game marked the first time this season that the Redskins offensive line did not yield a single sack of QB Rex Grossman.
● Ryan Kerrigan played every single defensive snap for the Redskins, and has now been on the field for all 252 of the Redskins defensive snaps this season. Along with London Fletcher-Baker he is the only Redskin defender to achieve that mark in 2011.
PFF Game Ball
Ryan Torain, HB, Washington Redskins
Ryan Torain’s return from injury was simply outstanding. Roy Helu and Tim Hightower have looked strong carrying the ball for the Redskins so far this season but Torain’s speed to the front side of the zone running scheme was simply terrifying at times. The Redskins have themselves a three headed monster in the backfield, how will they manage it and keep all three backs happy?
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