For the first time in a couple of year, I woke up excited to roam the internet in search of some post-game Rams coverage. Needless to say, there is very little to be found. The media world is still reluctant to give the St. Louis Rams any credit, even when it is genuinely due to them. If you don’t believe me, head on over to NFL.com and watch the “highlights” of the game, which are essentially the four positive plays that RGIII had, combined with the “analysts” fawning over his every move. Anyways, the Rams deserved the win yesterday, and finally were able to hold the lead until the end of the game. The majority of headlines will point the unsportsmanlike conduct call on Josh Morgan as the “game changing” moment in the game, but really the Rams had fought through adversity from the opening catch (and fumble) to even get into that position. Aside from Morgan, there were a ton of players who left their mark on this game. Here are the winners and losers from Week 2…
Winner: Cortland Finnegan
Finnegan continued to impress after his team-leading 10 tackle, 1 interception performance against the Detroit Lions. Finnegan managed 5 tackles against the Redskins, but blanketed his man for a majority of the game, forcing RGIII to rush, scramble, or throw the ball away. When he was targeted, Finnegan either made a break on the ball for a pass deflection or made the sure tackle after the catch. He also picked off Griffin early in the game, stalling a comeback drive and putting Bradford in great field position to put some points on the board. Most importantly, his chippy attitude elicited the angry reaction from Josh Morgan that pushed the Redskins out of field goal range on their final drive of the game.
Loser: Josh Morgan
Literally and figuratively, Morgan was the ultimate loser in this game. He had actually had a pretty good game up until this point, hauling in 5 catches for 50 yards, leading all receivers in receptions and yards (aside from Hankerson who caught the 68 yard touchdown). However, now many will be clamor for this head on the chopping block.
Winner: Danny Amendola
After getting striped on the opening catch of the Rams first drive, St. Louis found themselves in a 7-0 hole narrowly 15 seconds into the game. The old St. Louis team may have folded right there, but not this one. Amendola’s horrific start concluded with a historic night. By the end of the first quarter, he had tied an NFL-record for 12 receptions in a single half. By the end of the game, he had tied a St. Louis Rams receptions record with 15 catches for 160 yards and a touchdown. Records aside, Amendola completely controlled the first half of the game, forcing the Redskins to shift coverage to him throughout the rest of the game. Bradford took advantage of the new-look coverage, tossing touchdowns to both Gibson and Mulligan in the second half.
Loser: Washington Defensive Coordinator Jim Haslett
The former Rams’ interm head coach was torn apart on Sunday, attempted to employ a soft zone against Bradford and the Rams offense. Washington’s front seven got no push on the Rams’ Frankenstein-esque offensive line, and Bradford had all the time he needed to find the open man. For most of the game, that open man was Amendola, who continually found the gap in the zone and posted up, hands ready for the pass from Bradford. The only adjustment at halftime seemed to be a spy on Amendola from DeAngelo Hall. The coverage worked, so far as to cover Amendola, but allowed the rest of the receivers to run free all over the Redskins secondary.
Winner: St. Louis Rams running game
Aside from the untimely fumble from Daryl Richardson, Steven Jackson’s replacement had a fine showing as the featured back. Jackson was sidelined in the first half with, what we later learned to be, a groin injury. A post-game interview revealed that both Jackson and Coach Fisher had enough confidence that Richardson could hold his own on the field that they did rush Jackson back, a confidence that the Rams have not had in the past with back-ups. However, it was well-deserved, with Richardson taking 15 carries for 83 yards, including a 53 yard burner down the sideline. In total, St. Louis tallied 151 yards on the ground, split between Jackson, Richardson, and Bradford. Sadly, Isaiah Pead seems to have dropped out of the running for the back-up spot, but the Rams should be excited that they found a gem in the 7th round.
Loser: Washington’s receiving core
Griffin had a ton of time to get the ball out of his hands against the Rams on Sunday, but ended up relying more on his legs to get yards than his arm. This was through no fault of his own, as his receivers got no separation from the St. Louis secondary, who played in a cover-man combination defense for most of the game. Even when the receivers were open, their routes were often short of the first down marker, leading to a number of 3-and-outs that could have easily resulted in first downs. Aside from the blown coverage on Hankerson, only one pass was completed for over 20 yards, and only two passes went for over 10 yards. The icing on the cake was the Josh Morgan unsportsmanlike conduct call. However, if I were a receiver for the Washington Redskins I would be upset too if I hadn’t been able to get open the entire game.
Winner: Sam Bradford
Bradford had a career defining night against the Washington Redskins. After an impressive fourth quarter against the Detroit Lions, he came into his game firing on all cylinders. Bradford completed 74 percent of his passes, going 26 of 35 for 310 yards and 3 touchdowns. More impressively, he controlled the tempo of the game, changing the call at the line of scrimmage and setting the Rams up in position to hold the lead at the end of the game. Most impressively, he did it against a player who many thought might have replaced him at the starter in St. Louis. He made a statement in his game that the new regime made the right choice by keeping him in a Rams uniform, and rewarded them with a win in the season home opener.
Winner: The St. Louis Rams fan base
The real winners of the game had to be the fans. Not only did all of the 54,000+ who attended the season opener at the Edward Jones Dome receive a free Jeff Fisher Mustache, they also got a win. The team looks to have finally pulled itself out of mediocrity and back into somewhat-relevance, after going through a historical stretch of losing over the past half decade. More importantly, the game should have restored faith in even the most animate Bradford-haters, as he led the team to a convincing win over RGIII, who the Rams could have easily selected with the second overall pick in this years draft. Regardless of who is was against, the fans in St. Louis deserve to drive home from the game with butterflies in their stomach over a win instead of nausea at the hands of defeat.