NFL Preview - St. Louis (5-7) at Washington (3-9)
By Shawn Clarke, Contributing NFL Editor
(SportsNetwork.com) - The St. Louis Rams hope they saved some points from their previous win and will visit the Washington Redskins Sunday at FedEx Field.
The Rams annihilated the lowly Oakland Raiders, 52-0, at home this past weekend and took advantage of five turnovers by the visiting team, including a 43-yard interception return for a touchdown by Trumaine Johnson.
All three phases worked in St. Louis' favor and the team rode the legs of Tre Mason, who ran for a season-high 117 yards and two scores. He had an 89-yard touchdown run in the second quarter and posted just his second 100-yard game of the season. Mason also scored on a 35-yard screen pass.
"We practiced with a purpose, we met with a purpose," Rams head coach Jeff Fisher said. "We've been doing that all year long. It all just came together for us today."
St. Louis improved to 5-7 and has rotated wins over the past eight games.
Veteran quarterback Shaun Hill made his third start since replacing rookie Austin Davis and threw for 183 yards with two touchdowns on 13-of-22 passing. Hill won his only career start against the Redskins as a member of San Francisco in 2008.
Oakland used two quarterbacks after rookie Derek Carr was intercepted twice and passed for 173 yards. Matt Schaub came on in relief and was intercepted, completing 5-of-9 attempts for 57 yards.
Johnson had two interceptions and was excited for his pick-six.
"This is my first pick six," Johnson said. "I scored and forgot what it was like to be in the end zone. My celebration was trash, but I'm just glad I caught it and put some points up for our team."
E.J. Gaines posted the other interception for the Rams, who recorded six sacks, three of which by Robert Quinn. Quinn has nine sacks on the season and is 10 shy of matching his 2013 total.
The Rams are on the road, where they have lost two in a row and four of the last five games.
Washington is a dismal 3-9 this season and mired in a four-game losing streak. It will play three of four games at home to close the season.
The Redskins made a statement by benching franchise quarterback Robert Griffin III after a 17-13 loss at San Francisco. The move to Colt McCoy produced some numbers, but it wasn't enough to overcome Sunday's 49-27 loss in Indianapolis. McCoy threw for a career-high 392 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions in his second start of the season, and Jordan Reed was his favorite target.
Reed caught nine passes for 123 yards and DeSean Jackson finished with five receptions for 84 yards and a score. Wide receiver Santana Moss recorded his first reception of the season in the second quarter, gaining 13 yards.
"Players have to start stepping up and taking some accountability at some point," Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. "We've got to do a better job coaching, that's all I can say."
The Colts had 487 total yards to Washington's 425. Ryan Kerrigan posted the lone sack for the Redskins and has 9 1/2 this season. He also posted the 13th forced fumble of his career for the Redskins, who had three takeaways for the second straight week.
Washington's defense has seen better days and is ninth in rushing yards allowed (102.8), 11th in total yards (344.0), 15th in passing yards (241.2) and 27th in points allowed (26.8). The Redskins are 14th in sacks (28.0) and 29th in interceptions (5).
"I think everybody in our room works hard," Redskins defensive back Ryan Clark said. "I love these dudes. I like the guys I work with. I love the way they work. I love the way they prepare, but you got to bring it to the grass and we need to bring it to the grass as a group."
The Redskins lead the all-time series with the Rams, 24-12-1, but have lost four of the past six meetings between the two teams. St. Louis won the latest installment of this series by recording a 31-28 win on Sept. 16, 2012. RG3 passed for 206 yards with a TD and an INT, and also ran for 82 yards and two scores. Alfred Morris posted 89 yards on 16 carries in defeat.
Washington is 11-5 all-time in regular season home games against the Rams.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
The Redskins are 10th and 11th, respectively, in passing yards (260.5) and total yards (370.2) this season. The Rams are allowing 245.2 passing yards and 356.3 total yards on defense, so this could turn out to be a win for the hosts.
St. Louis sacked the Raiders six times and Quinn led the way. Now he gets to face McCoy, who was sacked six times on Sunday and 11 times in three appearances this season. Quinn has nine sacks and four forced fumbles in his last seven games.
McCoy and the Redskins are closing out the season with pride and effort.
"We have unity. We have good guys in that locker room. We have good coaches and we know this isn't how the season, this isn't how we drew it up," McCoy said. "But we all still have a lot of pride and certainly in that receivers group, there's a lot of pride. So I can be better and I think we all can be better. And we just have to continue to grind and continue to improve. The most important thing is to find a way to get a win. We're going back home this week, so I'll put my best foot forward and keep going."
Speaking of the receivers, wide receiver Pierre Garcon surpassed 5,000 career receiving yards and Jackson posted his 400th career reception. Jackson eclipsed 7,000 career receiving yards and is a deep threat for the 'Skins. He has 10 catches for 40 or more yards this season, and is nursing a leg bruise.
Jackson has faced St. Louis twice in his career as an Eagle, posting 12 receptions for 208 yards and a touchdown.
Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather suffered a sprained toe and his status for Sunday is unknown. Other defensive players who sustained injuries against the Colts were cornerback Chase Minnifield, linebacker Will Compton and defensive lineman Kedric Golston.
Gruden said it's "not looking good" for Meriweather to play this week. Golston could be out with both a back and foot ailment.
St. Louis hopes to run up the score on Washington like it did versus Oakland, and can take advantage of a nicked-up Redskins defense. Mason will face a Washington defense allowing just over 100 yards a game. The Colts had 126 rushing yards on Sunday and Dan Herron had 88 yards and a TD on eight touches.
Mason is riding a strong wave from the Oakland game and will try to carry it over into FedEx Field.
"I want to be the best player to ever touch a football, and that's what I'm heading after," Mason said. "That's a goal of mine."
While those aspirations may be a bit far-fetched, Mason should have similar numbers Sunday.
"My mindset is that if I've done it once, why not do it again?" Mason said. "I told myself coming into the league to be the best, to be the greatest. And I'm trying to do it."
Mason leads NFC rookies with 562 rushing yards and has led the Rams in rushing in all eight games played.
Rams defensive end Chris Long returned against the Raiders after suffering an ankle injury in Week 1. Long had a sack and his coach is happy he's back.
"It's great to get him back. He's not 100 percent yet, but I brought him back just to get him off my rear end," Fisher said. "He was just wearing me out to come back and play. Chris understands the game, he plays with leverage, he's a good run defender. It's great to get on the board from a sack standpoint."
Shutting out the Raiders in blowout fashion was no fluke by the Rams, but they've struggled on the road all season. The Rams are out of the playoff mix and would like to end the season on a positive note with high expectations for 2015.
And so would the Redskins.
With a new QB in tow for a second straight week, the home team has the edge in this one. Gruden liked the way McCoy competed against a tough Indy squad and had admiration for his QB, which has been rare this season.
"Colt competed," Gruden said. "There are some things I wish we would have done differently, play calls and execution-wise, but I feel like he competed and did a nice job out there."
Washington's defense may be banged up a bit, so it's up to McCoy, Morris and some talented receivers to keep team pride intact.
Sports Network predicted outcome: Redskins 26, Rams 21
12/07 09:13:27 ET