Robert Griffin III completed 20 of 29 passes for 206 yards, but the Washington Redskins defense proved little match for the St. Louis Rams (1-1) who rallied in the second half to beat the Redskins 31-28 on Sunday.
Griffin ran for two touchdowns and added another on a 68-yard pass, but defensive errors and an ill-timed unsportsmanlike conduct cost the Redskins the opportunity to return to Washington with a 2-0 record.
The Redskins got things started early as cornerback Josh Wilson returned a fumble for a 30-yard touchdown on the very first play of the game. On the Redskins’ second snap on defense, however, defensive end Adam Carriker went down with a right knee injury. Just 10 plays later, Redskins linebacker Brian Orakpo sacked Rams quarterback Sam Bradford and forced a fumble on Rodger Safford in a nasty collision that left Orakpo sidelined with a left arm injury and Safford out with a right knee injury.
Unfortunately for the Rams, the officiating for the matchup at the Edward Jones Dome deteriorated faster than the Redskins’ defense. In the first quarter, Rams wide receiver Brandon Gibson caught Sam Bradford’s touchdown pass deep in the end zone and clearly maintained possession of the ball, yet the referee called him out of bounds. Although the NFL instated new guidelines for reviews, the Rams were forced to challenge it but St. Louis coach Jeff Fisher never threw the flag.
The Rams, instead, opted for a field goal and with 9:11 left in the quarter, St. Louis kicker Greg Zuerlein’s 39-yard field goal brought the Rams within four.
As would be the case throughout most of the game, Griffin took matters into his own hands. With 23 seconds left in the quarter, Griffin ran five yards to complete his first-ever rushing touchdown in the NFL and Washington took a 14-3 lead.
Referee blunders would prove costly for the Rams yet again in the second quarter as it appeared that running back Steven Jackson rushed for a touchdown, but he was called short on the play. Frustrated, Jackson spiked the ball and was called for a 15-yard penalty, despite the fact that multiple altercations between the two teams in the first half were never flagged by officials. As a result, the Rams resorted to a 33-yard field goal, trimming the Redskins’ lead to eight. Jackson never returned to the game, apparently disciplined by Rams head coach Jeff Fisher.
The attention would return back to Griffin’s stellar performance later in the quarter as he completed a beautiful 68-yard touchdown pass to Leonard Hankerson to give the Redskins a 21-6 cushion with the extra point. However, the Redskins defense began to crumble before the half as Bradford led an 80-yard drive with a 56-yard pass to wide receiver Danny Amendola.
Bradford turned to Amendola for the touchdown pass, which brought the Rams back within eight and with under a minute left in the half, Zuerlein would secure another field goal to cut the Redskins’ lead to just 21-16. In total, the Redskins defense gave up 264 yards in the half.
Washington’s defensive woes only worsened in the second half as Bradford completed a 34-yard touchdown pass to unguarded wide receiver Brandon Gibson, giving the Rams a 23-21 lead.
However, Griffin would break through the Rams’ defense himself and complete his second rushing touchdown on the night, allowing Washington to retake the lead, 27-23.
Redskins linebacker London Fletcher salvaged the Redskins’ lead by intercepting a pass to Steve Smith in the endzone, however, Washington would quickly return the ball to the Rams after Matthew Mulligan blocked Sav Rocca’s punt – the second blocked punt for the Redskins in as many weeks. The Rams would go on to break into the fourth quarter with a touchdown pass to Mulligan and a two-point conversion to give St. Louis a 31-28 lead.
Griffin, once again, would rise to the occasion with a brilliant double fake and a perfect throw to Aldrick Robinson, but Robinson appeared to lose it in the lights and failed to make the catch.
With less than three minutes left in the game, Griffin tossed to Josh Morgan to put the Redskins within range for a game-tying field goal. However, Rams cornerback Cortland Finnegan pushed Morgan, who responded by throwing the football at Finnegan. Morgan’s conduct earned the Redskins a 15-yard penalty, setting the Redskins up for a 62-yard field goal, rather than a 47-yard field goal. Billy Cundiff’s 62-yard field goal-attempt landed short allowing the Rams to lock in the win in regulation.