NFL Preview - Washington (1-0) at St. Louis (0-1)
By Lyle Fitzsimmons, Contributing NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - It's a good thing the St. Louis Rams have Sam Bradford.
Were it not for the former University of Oklahoma star, who's thrown for nearly 6,000 yards and 25 touchdowns since arriving on the scene in 2010, the Rams' brass might be having recurring nightmares about 2011 Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III.
The Washington Redskins made a trade with the Rams in March to acquire the No. 2 overall pick in the following month's draft to select Griffin, who announced his NFL arrival last week with as impressive a quarterback debut as the league has seen in recent memory.
Griffin takes to the road for the second time in his brief career this Sunday to take on the Rams at the Edward Jones Dome, where he'll try to follow up on a 19-of-26 performance that yielded 320 yards, no interceptions, an 88-yard scoring strike to free-agent newcomer Pierre Garcon and 42 rushing yards en route to recognition as the NFC's Offensive Player of the Week.
He also led the Redskins to a 40-32 upset of defending NFC South champion New Orleans at the Superdome, where the Saints didn't lose a single time all last season.
"(He brought) a lot of excitement, a lot of optimism," Washington defensive tackle Barry Cofield said of Griffin. "You get a quarterback, a young guy comes in with that type of energy and that type of upside and ability, it pretty much puts a smile on your face. You feel like that guy can make a play to change the game at any time."
Griffin was helped by two more youngster in rookie running back Alfred Morris, who ran for 96 yards and two touchdowns, and second-year wide receiver Aldrick Robinson, who caught a touchdown pass.
Another challenge comes this week, when Washington tries to maintain the momentum while aiming for its third winning season in 12 years - in spite of starting a season with a victory in eight of the first 11 campaigns over that stretch. The Redskins were 2-0 to begin 2011, but finished 5-11.
Since a playoff run in 2007, Washington has been the NFC East cellar-dweller for four years and went 15-33 over its last three season.
"It's one game. We've got 15 left," Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan said. "I think our team is mature enough to understand that it was a nice win, but it's one win."
The Rams have been at least 0-2 in five straight losing seasons, including an 0-6 start in 2011 on the way to a 2-14 mark.
It was more of the same last week for St. Louis, which lost by a 27-23 score at Detroit in head coach Jeff Fisher's debut after allowing a go-ahead touchdown with 10 seconds left.
"There's a lot of areas on the tape and film where we're a play away," Fisher said afterward. "You make a play here, you make a play there, you have a chance to win the ballgame."
The Rams' offense was a glaring lowlight on the film after recording a conference-low 14 first downs and 251 total yards. Bradford was sacked three times and running back Steven Jackson had only 53 yards on 21 carries.
On the offensive line, center Scott Wells could miss eight weeks or more after breaking a bone in his left foot and tackle Rodger Saffold is iffy for this week's contest with a neck injury.
Wells was a Pro-Bowler in 2011 with Green Bay and one of three new starters up front, joining free-agent tackle Barry Richardson and rookie guard Rokevious Watkins.
Saffold missed nearly half of last season with a chest injury and was carted off in Sunday's loss. He exited the hospital soon after and returned to practice Wednesday, though it seems unlikely he'll play. If he doesn't, in steps New York Jets castoff Wayne Hunter.
"It appears at this point it's just a significant strain," Fisher said of Saffold's injury. "So he's very lucky. So that's good news on our behalf."
Jackson was held to 45 yards on 17 attempts in a 17-10 loss to the Redskins last season. He caught a touchdown pass from Bradford with 5:45 remaining, but Washington sacked the St. Louis quarterback three times down the stretch.
Redskins lead 22-9-1
Last Meeting: Redskins 17, Rams 10 (Oct. 2, 2011 at St. Louis)
Redskins HC Mike Shanahan vs. Rams: 3-4 overall, 1-1 with Washington Rams HC Jeff Fisher vs. Redskins: 3-2 overall, 0-0 with St. Louis Shanahan vs. Fisher Head-to-Head: Shanahan leads, 3-1
Notes: This will be the third consecutive season these teams will be facing one another at the Edward Jones Dome, with the Rams scoring a 30-16 home win over Washington in September of 2010 and the Redskins returning the favor with last year's aforementioned victory. The Rams and Redskins have also split four lifetime playoff matchups, though none have taken place prior to 1986. Shanahan has defeated Fisher in three straight head-to-head bouts, with the first two wins coming while in charge of Denver and the most recent being a 19-16 overtime decision by Washington over Fisher's Tennessee Titans in 2010.
BY THE NUMBERS
Offensive Team Rankings
Washington: 1st overall (464.0 ypg), 4th rushing (153.0 ypg), 4th passing (311.0 ypg), 4th scoring (40.0 ppg)
St. Louis: 31st overall (251.0 ypg), 23rd rushing (78.0 ypg), 29th passing (173.0 ypg), 16th scoring (23.0 ppg)
Defensive Team Rankings
Washington: 19th overall (358.0 ypg), 3rd rushing (32.0 ypg), 31st passing (326.0 ypg), 26th scoring (32.0 ppg)
St. Louis: 28th overall (429.0 ypg), 13th rushing (83.0 ypg), 32nd passing (346.0 ypg), 21st scoring (27.0 ppg)
Washington: +3 (3 takeaways, 0 giveaways) St. Louis: +3 (3 takeaways, 0 giveaways)
Red Zone Touchdown Percentage (offense)
Washington: 60.0 percent (5 possessions, 3 TD, 2 FG) -- tied 10th overall St. Louis: 0.0 percent (1 possessions, 0 TD, 1 FG) -- tied 29th overall
Red Zone Touchdown Percentage (defense)
Washington: 50.0 percent (2 possessions, 1 TD, 1 FG) -- tied 11th overall St. Louis: 60.0 percent (5 possessions, 3 TD, 0 FG) -- tied 20th overall
WHEN THE REDSKINS HAVE THE BALL
Griffin became the first quarterback to pass for 300-plus yards, two or more touchdowns and have no interceptions in an NFL debut last week. He also became the only quarterback to pass for 300 or more yards and win in his first game. Morris rushed for 96 yards and two scores in his first outing, while backup running back Evan Royster has 100-plus rushing yards in both of his NFL starts - combining for 245 yards over that stretch. Another member of the backfield, Roy Helu, started five games last season and rushed for 100 or more yards in three. Wide receiver Santana Moss aims for his third game in a row against St. Louis with a receiving touchdown. In a September 2010 meeting between the teams, he had six catches for 124 yards (20.7 avg.) and a touchdown. Garcon had four catches for 109 yards and an 88-yard touchdown against New Orleans, but is questionable this week with an ailing foot.
St. Louis defensive end Chris Long has 10 sacks in his past 11 games and has generated 13 over his past 13 home outings with at least one in 10 of those contests. Linebacker James Laurinaitis had an interception in last year's game against Washington and is the only NFC player with eight or more sacks (8) and five or more interceptions (5) since 2009. Cornerback Cortland Finnegan, a free-agent pickup from Tennessee in the offseason, had a 31-yard interception for a touchdown last week in his first game with the Rams. Also, rookie corner Janoris Jenkins had his first career interception in his NFL debut and returned the pick 34 yards.
WHEN THE RAMS HAVE THE BALL
Bradford had a 105.1 passer rating last week, his fourth career game with a number above 100, and notched his first career NFL win against the Redskins on Sept. 26, 2010. Jackson had 252 yards from scrimmage (150 rushing, 102 receiving) in a 2006 meeting with Washington and also had both a rushing and a receiving score in that game. Since 1960, he is one of six players in the league with 150-plus rushing yards, 100-plus receiving yards, a rushing touchdown and a receiving score in the same game. Since 2006, Jackson has averaged 114.4 yards from scrimmage per game (9,952 yards, 87 games), the most in the NFL with a minimum of 60 games. Wide receiver Danny Amendola had six catches for 56 yards in his last game against Washington, which took place in 2010, and amassed five catches for 70 yards in Week 1 against Detroit. Fellow wideout Brandon Gibson, meanwhile, had a scoring catch last week.
Washington linebacker Brian Orakpo had 2 1/2 sacks and a forced fumble in last season's win over St. Louis. In his past two meetings with the Rams, he has recorded 3 1/2 sacks and aims for a third game in a row against St. Louis with one. Orakpo also need just 1 1/2 sacks to reach 30 for his career. On the opposite side, second-year pro Ryan Kerrigan had a sack and a forced fumble in his lone career meeting with St. Louis, in which the Redskins took down Bradford a total of seven times. Safety DeJon Gomes had his first career interception with a 49-yard return last week.
Chances are that Griffin can't possibly be as good as he was in his first time out, but if he is -- watch out. The Rams struggled offensively against Detroit and could be in for more trouble with a suddenly very balky offensive line - and averaged less than three yards per rush attempt in Week 1. A shootout probably benefits Washington. In a closer game, the Redskins seem competent enough to hang in with the suddenly familiar zone-blocking run game that Shanahan always seemed to display in Denver. Add in the mojo from last week's big victory for a revitalized franchise, and it looks like 2-0 for a second straight year.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Redskins 30, Rams 20
09/13 18:04:01 ET