Here's five takeaways from the Washington Redskins' 24-10 victory over the St. Louis Rams in front of 71,460 fans at FedExField.*
1. Matt Jones, NFL. NFL, Matt Jones.
The Washington Redskins knew it would be crucial to establish a strong running game if they were going to have a chance to neutralize the St. Louis Rams' talented defensive front.
So when you look at the boxscore from Sunday's game and see such a lopsided Washington victory, it might not be surprising that the Redskins outgained the Rams 182 to 67 yards on the ground and held the ball for 37 minutes and 44 seconds, more than 15 minutes longer than St. Louis (22:16).
But take a closer look, and you'll see a breakout performance by a promising Redskins rookie.
Running back Matt Jones opened many eyes on Sunday with a monster performance, carrying the ball a game-high 19 times for 123 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, while adding three receptions for 23 yards.
"It feels great man," Jones said after the game. "My O-line did great today. Alfred Morris did great today. I just have this energy feeding off him when he gets the ball, so it was a great day for us."
Jones got his day started with a bang, taking a first-quarter handoff from quarterback Kirk Cousins and breaking out to his left for a 39-yard touchdown scamper, giving the Redskins their first score of the game.
Jones would also add rushes of 18, 25, 11 and nine yards on the day, finishing with a 6.5 yards-per-carry average. He also overcame third-quarter lost fumble to end his day with a three-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
"I knew I needed to bounce back," Jones said. "I had my teammates to hold me up too. It was great for them and great for us."
2. The Redskins' defense came to play.
Last week, the Rams gained 352 total yards – 276 through the air and 76 on the ground – in their 34-31 overtime victory over the Seattle Seahawks. Included in those totals were a 16-yard touchdown run and a 37-yard touchdown pass.
Check out these top photos from the Washington Redskins' 2015 Week 2 matchup against the St. Louis Rams Sept. 20, 2015, at FedExField.
On Sunday, the Rams could only muster 213 total yards against a stingy Redskins defense, throwing for just 146 yards and gaining 46 yards on the ground.
The Washington defense was especially nasty in the first half, allowing just 72 net yards, including 17 on the ground.
But on third downs – an area that has seen some struggles from Redskins teams in the recent past – Washington answered the call on Sunday, as the Rams converted just 2-of-12 (17 percent) of their attempts.
They also put down the clamps in the fourth quarter, holding off the Rams – who had scored 10 unanswered points in the third quarter – to secure the victory.
"The veteran guys led the way and we kept our heads about us and found a way to get this victory," Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said.
Washington's defense has been solid up front – allowing an average of just 60 rushing yards per game through its first two contests – and it's carried over to the back end, which has cut down on the number of big plays allowed.
The Rams on Sunday had just one play – a 40-yard touchdown pass from Nick Foles to Kenny Britt – that resulted in more than 16 yards.
"They always talk about how bad we are as a team, but each week we're going to try to prove people wrong," defensive end Chris Baker said. "We're not really worried about what they're saying out there. As long as we take care of our business we'll be OK."
3. Kirk Cousins was quietly efficient for the Redskins.
An 85-percent completion rate for any quarterback in the National Football League is fantastic, but Kirk Cousins was able to do just that without much fanfare Sunday afternoon.
In all, Cousins completed 23-of-27 passes for 203 yards and a touchdown through the air, making several throws when he needed to but otherwise just letting the offense do its thing in the win.
"I felt belief in the huddle today, and when you have some of the long drives we've been able to put together, you need that," Cousins said. "And it's encouraging – in this league you're only as good as your last game, so now we have to do it week in and week out."
On his lone touchdown pass against the Rams, Cousins, who finished with a solid quarterback rating of 110.3, showed off his confidence on a well-timed route to Pierre Garçon. On 3rd and Goal from the 4-yard line, Cousins had a quick three-step drop before putting his weight on his back foot and delivering a strike in the front left corner of the end zone to Garçon, who created separation in 1-on-1 coverage and made the easy catch for the score.
Cousins ended his day with no interceptions – a week after throwing two picks against the Dolphins – and his offensive line allowed just two sacks to a Rams defense that has averaged about seven sacks over its last 10 games, dating back to last season.
"If I could give you five reasons for us playing so well, it would be those five guys," Cousins said of his offensive linemen. "Keeping the sack total down gives us the chance to win and puts us in a better situation."
Gruden said he was impressed with Cousins' efficiency and consistency on Sunday.
"I'm happy with the way Kirk played," Gruden said. "I'm sure there were some throws that he wishes he had back, but to get a victory against a defense like that is very impressive."
4. The Redskins played keep-away from dangerous returner Tavon Austin.
Tavon Austin is as dangerous a weapon in the return game as there is in the NFL. The Redskins were already well aware of this – he returned a punt 78 yards for a touchdown last season in the Rams' 24-0 shutout victory at FedExField.
So Washington wasn't even going to let Austin get a glimmer of hope to do anything of note in the return game on Sunday. He had zero – yes zero – returns both via the punt and kick return.
Austin had some success in the Rams' offensive scheme – he had 10 carries for 40 yards – but overall, those were the only times Redskins fans heard his name coming from the FedExField loudspeakers.
"He's a dangerous guy," Gruden said. "We made sure we weren't going to punt to him. He's a great player and we worked extremely hard."
Gruden credited defensive coordinator Joe Barry, defensive backs coach Perry Fewell and defensive line coach Robb Akey with putting together a solid gameplan against Austin on defense.
"They popped a couple jet sweeps, and I think they added a little reverse to him," Gruden said. "Overall, I think the game plan was really good. We stopped a running game, which was really important."
The only sacrifice for the keep-away game from Austin on Sunday? Tress Way's punting average. After leading the league with a 47.5 yards-per-punt average in 2014, Way averaged 40.7 yards on six punts on Sunday.
I'm confident Way is just fine with that, however.
5. Sweet, sweet revenge.
Whether or not they'll say it publicly, the Redskins players who were on last year's team really wanted to take it to the Rams on Sunday.
Check out images of the Washington Redskins warming up on the field prior to their 2015 Week 2 matchup against the St. Louis Rams Sept. 20, 2015, at FedExField.
They were humiliated last season in their 24-0 shutout loss in front of their home crowd, one in which they were pushed around in all three phases of the game.
"I watched the whole game last night right before I went to sleep to just sort of refreshing my mind," left tackle Trent Williams said. "You know, those guys came out here and embarrassed us last year. There is no ifs, ands, or buts about it. They were the better team."
Williams said the fact the Rams "goose-egged us at home" was a "terrible feeling."
"Especially when you know you had offensive weapons people would die for," he continued.
Finally, that bad taste is out of their mouths.
"We just got to keep living up to our potential and continue to build off games like this and take it into next week," Williams said.