Combining a bruising running game and a pressure-oriented defense, the Redskins defeated the St. Louis Rams 24-9 in convincing fashion at the Edward Jones Dome on Sunday.
Clinton Portis and Rock Cartwright both rushed for more than 100 yards in the game--as a team the Redskins compiled 257 total rushing yards--as the offensive line dominated the line of scrimmage from the get-go.
Portis finished with 136 yards on 27 carries, with two touchdowns. Cartwright had 118 yards on nine carries, with runs of 52 and 28 yards that seemed to stun the Rams' defense.
On defense, Marcus Washington, Sean Taylor and Pierson Prioleau recorded sacks of Rams' rookie quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, while Carlos Rogers recorded his second interception of the season to seal the win in the fourth quarter.
It was the Redskins' defense that set the tone for the game early on. On the Rams' first offensive play from scrimmage, LaVar Arrington tackled tight end Cameron Cleeland for a 7-yard loss. On the next play, Phillip Daniels tackled running back Steven Jackson for a 2-yard loss.
Then Washington blitzed into the Rams' backfield and sacked Fitzpatrick for a 10-yard loss. The sack forced Rams' punter Bryan Barker to punt from his own end zone. The Redskins took over possession at St. Louis's 48-yard line.
Portis did the rest. After Portis ran up the middle for a 1-yard gain, he took a handoff from Mark Brunell and broke right. He sped through a hole opened up by Jon Jansen, then cut back behind another block by Randy Thomas. Portis out-raced the Rams' secondary to the end zone for a 47-yard touchdown.
By the end of the first quarter, Portis had accumulated 79 rushing yards on 10 carries, while the Rams had compiled just 11 yards of total offense.
The Redskins had an opportunity to expand the lead early in the second quarter. Brunell led a drive downfield on pass completions to Chris Cooley and Santana Moss.
But the Redskins were faced with a 4th-and-1 at the Rams' 27-yard line. Initially, head coach Joe Gibbs had the offense on the field and appeared to be going for the first down. But Gibbs changed his mind and sent out kicker John Hall. Hall's 45-yard attempt was wide left.
Midway into the second quarter, the Rams were able to score on the legs of Fitzpatrick, who was effective scrambling out of the pocket. He out-ran pressure from the aggressive defense and scored on a 7-yard run in which he eluded tackles by Daniels, Ryan Boschetti and Washington.
On the drive, it appeared that the Redskins had stopped the Rams on a 4th-and-2 play, but safety Sean Taylor was flagged for a 15-yard face-mask penalty. It appeared Taylor was going for the interception, but his hands inadvertently got caught in the receiver's face mask.
The Redskins responded with an impressive drive highlighted by the 52-yard run by Cartwright. Spelling Portis, Cartwright raced around the left end and down the sideline. He was tackled from behind at the Rams' 6-yard line.
The Redskins' red zone offense sputtered, however, and they had to settle for a 38-yard field goal by Hall and a 10-7 lead heading into halftime.
After a scoreless third quarter, the Redskins got back on the scoreboard early in the fourth quarter. Brunell completed a 29-yard pass to tight end Robert Royal and a 30-yard pass to Moss, giving the Redskins a 1st-and-goal at the Rams' 9-yard line. Moss's catch was spectacular, leaping over safety Jerome Carter for the reception.
Portis followed that up with a 1-yard touchdown dive, giving the Redskins a 17-7 advantage.
The Redskins were seemingly in control of the game, but midway through the fourth quarter, the offense was pushed back near its own goal line. On first down from the Redskins' 6-yard line, Brunell dropped back to pass.
Brunell suddenly lost his grip on the ball and it fluttered into the end zone. All Brunell could do was knock it out of the back of the end zone, resulting in a safety.
The play seemed to give the Rams new life, as it pulled them to within a touchdown and a two-point conversion to tie the game. But Fitzpatrick and Jackson mis-handled the exchange on a running play on the Rams' next possession. The ball was recovered by defensive lineman Renaldo Wynn.
With the ball on the Rams' 45-yard line, the Redskins went back to the ground attack that had been so successful most of the afternoon. Portis churned out 19 more yards and Cartwright added a 13-yard run to put the Redskins in scoring range.
On 3rd-and-goal at the Rams' 4-yard line, Brunell tossed a pass in the flat to a wide open Cooley, who skipped into the end zone for the score and a commanding 24-9 lead.
It was the Redskins' second touchdown of the fourth quarter, putting to rest question about the offense's inability to score points late in games.