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Redskins' Offensive Line Sets The Tone In First Victory

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Soured with their effort in last year's loss to the Rams, the Redskins' offensive line set a completely different foundation in Sunday's 24-10 rematch at FedExField.

Saturday night at the team hotel, left tackle Trent Williams wanted to remind himself of last December's 24-0 defeat to the Rams.  He wanted to know how St. Louis beat them, and, specifically, to recall the "terrible feeling" from that loss.

"I watched the whole game last night right before I went to sleep, just so it would be fresh in my mind," Williams said. "Those guys came out and embarrassed us last year."

That sentiment, echoed by center Korey Lichtensteiger, was prevalent throughout the Redskins locker room leading up to the team's rematch, but weighed heavily on the minds of the offensive linemen, who allowed 7 sacks, 9 quarterback hits and only 27 yards rushing.

The bad taste in their mouths triggered some fight. In another trial at FedExField, the Redskins offensive line set the foundation for the entire afternoon, flipping last year's script and leading the team to 24-10 exclamatory statement.

"It meant everything," Williams said. "The win feels, it's a euphoric feeling. You don't even think about last week."

All week, the chatter, just like the week before, was about the Rams' threatening defensive line, led by Aaron Donald, especially after what the group had imposed against Seattle in their opening victory.

But all week, just like the week and months before, offensive line coach Bill Callahan held his big bodies after practice, repeating various drills, preparing them for the onslaught and continuing to brandish the kind of football general manager Scot McCloughan promised at the beginning of the year.

"The physicality, the technique, just the daily grind we go through every day," right tackle Morgan Moses said. "It's definitely paying off on Sundays."

The line enforced their will from the opening quarter, and rarely let off the pedal. The Redskins' second drive of the game lasted just three plays thanks to two punishing runs – an Alfred Morris 35-yard rush and a Matt Jones 39-yard sprint to the end zone – to get on the board first.

That was only the beginning. Jones would find the end zone a second time, thanks to some patience, waiting for guard Shawn Lauvao to crash into his block and carve out a hole, finishing his day with 123 yards. Morris added 59 yards to his credit.

"The offensive line was great," Jones said. "You see a lot of energy out there. You see Trent Williams happy. Shawn Lauvao knocking people out. We were just grinding all the way. You see big Morris out there blocking. We did a great job."

Lauvao's impressive day, which he credits to those lining up beside him, was accentuated at the end of the final scoring drive, when Jones needed 8 yards for a first down inside the Rams' 5-yard line. He ran to the right edge and waited for Lauvao to curl out and latch onto his block before steamrolling his way past the orange marker.

"A lot of times, even with us, I'm like 'Yo, slow it down,'" Lauvao said. "Sometimes the cuts are more towards the backside, depending on if it's [an] outside or inside [run]. Obviously Matt had a tremendous game. Job well done by him, that's tremendous coaching."

With the St. Louis offense sputtering throughout most of the game, the Rams' defensive line, even with its depth, began to slow down as the running game progressed late into the game.

"I saw a lot of defeated looks on their faces today," Lichtensteiger said. "To the Rams' credit, those guys fought back. They never gave up. They're a good defense. I think maybe it did hurt their egos a little bit to have us challenge them with the running game. As an offensive lineman that's your dream. You can go out and run the ball, especially against a defense like that. You form an identity like that."

 That's really what this Redskins team seems to have found so early this season, even in their loss to the Dolphins last Sunday.  

"They wanted to get back to the old style, you know, ground and pound football," said guard Brandon Scherff, who continues to make big steps after facing the likes of Ndamukong Suh and Donald in his first two NFL games.

Maybe their biggest fan Sunday was quarterback Kirk Cousins, who was only sacked twice and managed to complete 23-of-27 passing for 203 yards and a touchdown. Three tight-end formations allowed the offense to cause confusion and gave Jones and Morris more options at the line.

"If I could give you five reasons for us playing so well, it would be those five guys," Cousins said. "That starts with them."

By the time the game clock hit zero, the bad taste had been spit out. Williams was bouncing and hugging teammates in celebration. It made Lichtensteiger question whether the game film he watched the night before was actually the same group of teammates.

"It wasn't us. Or if it was us, we're not that team anymore," Lichtensteiger said. "It's nice to go out and completely do a 180 from your performance from last year and have a positive outcome." 

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